30 June 2008

An Addendum on the Church and Politics

by Phil Johnson

Some additional thoughts on what it means to "Let your light shine."

ne of the greatest dangers of the political activism of the so-called "religious right" is this: It fosters a tendency to make enemies out of people who are supposed to be our mission-field, even while we're forming political alliances with Pharisees and false teachers.

To hear some Christians today talk, you might think that rampant sins like homosexuality and abortion in America could be solved by legislation. A hundred years ago, the pet issue was prohibition, and mainstream evangelicalism embraced the notion that outlawing liquor would solve the problem of drunkenness forever in America. It was a waste of time and energy, and it was an unhealthy diversion for evangelicals and fundamentalists during an era when the truth was under siege within the church. Lobbying for laws to change the behavior of worldly people was the last project evangelicals needed to make their prime mission in the early 20th century. Just like today. Remember Galatians 2:21: "If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." And Galatians 3:21: "If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law."

We have the true and only answer to sins like homosexuality, divorce, drug addiction, and other forms of rampant immorality. It's the glorious liberty of salvation in Christ. It's a message about the grace of God, which has accomplishes what no law could ever do. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation—Good News that truly changes hearts—and we need to proclaim that message. Politically-driven hostility against our neighbors is not the best way to let the light of the glorious gospel of Christ shine unto them.

We're like lighthouse keepers in a dark and stormy world. We've been given a mission of rescue and mercy. We can't be like James and John, who in a moment of weakness and immaturity wanted to call down fire from heaven to annihilate some unbelievers who took an opposing stance. We are ambassadors of the true light, who came down to earth to seek and to save the lost—not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.

There's a true sense in which we are not to love the world or the things of the world. But the people of the world are another matter. We're supposed to love them all, including our enemies. Scripture is clear on this. We don't condone sin, and we certainly can't pretend to let our lights shine if we're having fellowship with the deeds of darkness. But we should have a Christlike love for sinners, and that is an essential part of what He demands when He calls us to let our lights shine, so that people see our good works and glorify our heavenly Father. In this way, true disciples of Christ must be markedly different from the Pharisees.

If you don't have a sense of deep compassion and heartfelt benevolence toward sinners, you're not letting your light shine. If you, as a redeemed sinner, look on other sinners with no feeling but disgust, that's nothing but pride. That was the very sin of the Pharisee in Luke 18:11, who "stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican." And Jesus said that attitude is what kept him from being justified in God's eyes. Jesus, by contrast, "when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd."

That's the perspective it takes to be a true light in this world.

Phil's signature

82 comments:

VcdeChagn said...

Why does it always seem like when I need conviction about something, it gets piled on. My pastor preached something similar yesterday and I guess God thought I needed it again today :)

My weakness isn't coming down on non-Christians, it's coming down on the FLOCKS of WISC (wolves in sheep's clothing). Same passion, but with more compassion.

Thanks for the wake-up call.

Frank Turk said...

This is exactly the root of my problem with church-based political activism: it says, "we hate you" or "we abhor you" rather than "we are just like you" in the sense that we have what they need.

dac said...

but lets say our efforts do work - say on abortion - abortion is not only outlawed, but actually stops - 100%.

Yet we have witnessed to no one - not shared the gospel and none of those women or children is saved

Then all of our actions are a waste - valueless. By ending abortion via politics we have done nothing for Christ, nothing for those women and nothing for those children who lived.

Drew said...

Right on, Phil!

DJP said...

So DAC, you see the options as:

1. Focus on eliminating abortion, and witness to no one

2. Evangelize, and do nothing about ending abortion

Is that accurate?

Daisy said...

Of course those are not the only two options. :-) Your entire post speaks to the third option. The idea that we are to live holy uncompromising lives WHILE making sure we deep down show and feel compassion for the lost.

The problem is when we try to make it only two options. We either compromise and live as the world or we build a wall of self-righteousness that no one is interested in getting around.

As with most things it is "easier" to do one or the other especially if we are relying on our own ability. Only with Christ can we do both.

And we need posts like this as a continual reminder.

Tim Pauley said...

As one who works in a ministry seeking to reach those involved in the political realm with the gospel, I fear our light is often particularly hidden to those serving in the world of politics.

What is the only thing many legislators, elected officials, staffers, and lobbyists often see or hear from those claiming to follow Christ? Protests and politics? Do they often hear or see a positive proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

This is an aspect of the issue any believer involved in political activism should keep in mind.

dac said...

DJP


I think there are far better strategies that combine both evangelism and fighting abortion. Just outside the political arena. PICs, for example, are an excellent.

dac said...

PIC's are also an excellent way to show love, rather than hate.

ReformedMommy said...

As a Christian Californian trying to sort through how to love my neighbors if one day they include a homosexual couple with several lovely children my own kids' ages, I've found myself wondering if perhaps sometimes the reasons The Christian (not-so) Right fights so hard on the politicial level is because it's EASIER.It's so much easier to sign a petition or even march in a rally than to live next door to a family defined inherently by wickedness and help them settle in to their house, have their kids carpool with yours, then take the opportunity to share the Gospel in such a clear way that instead of you shunnning them, they shun you. And then you keep on mowing their grass, fixing their flat tires and giving them cookies at Thanksgiving, praying for them all the while.

I may end up getting that very opportunity, and I'm not as afraid of it as I was before.....

Mike said...

I agree with DAC except for PIC. What's PIC stand for?

DJP said...

Pious Inactive Christian?

(ba-dum bum)

trogdor said...

If you're like me, you thought about googling PIC plus various terms (abortion, pregnancy) to figure it out. If you did, you probably regret it.

All that to say, I still have no idea what a PIC is, but I know the Google safe search could stand to be a whole lot safer.

Stephen Wilson said...

One of the greatest dangers of the political activism of the so-called "religious right" is this: It fosters a tendency to make enemies out of people who are supposed to be our mission-field, even while we're forming political alliances with Pharisees and false teachers.

So, if we weren’t part of the Religious Right they would no longer consider us as enemies? Who are the “Pharisees and false teachers” of the Religious Right? James Dobson? Charles Colson? Jerry Falwell? Al Mohler? John MacArthur? Chuck Smith? James White? All would be considered part of the Religious Right by most on the secular left, would they not? Since all of the men I just named unequivocally believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to redemption with God, and that this country was founded upon the principles of biblical morality, they are what the secular media define as the “Religious Right.” That includes you, Phil, and me.

To hear some Christians today talk, you might think that rampant sins like homosexuality and abortion in America could be solved by legislation.

That’s a straw man argument Phil and you know it. I don’t know of one member of the Religious Right who has written or said that these issues could be solved through the legislative process. What they have said is that we must fight this in the arena of politics before it gets to the doors of the church. This is not an argument about who should be taxed in order to pay for pre-school education; this is an attack against our God, and us as His church.

A hundred years ago, the pet issue was prohibition, and mainstream evangelicalism embraced the notion that outlawing liquor would solve the problem of drunkenness forever in America. It was a waste of time and energy.

False analogy Phil, drinking alcoholic beverages is not condemned in the Bible, whereas murder (abortion) and homosexuality certainly is. I don’t think the fight to try and stop drunkenness that led to numerous destructive influences, should be considered a “waste of time and energy.” It was a noble cause, wrongheaded maybe, but noble nonetheless.

Lobbying for laws to change the behavior of worldly people was the last project evangelicals needed to make their prime mission in the early 20th century. Just like today. Remember Galatians 2:21: "If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." And Galatians 3:21: "If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law."

Straw man argument again, Phil. Name me one evangelical leader in the Religious Right who has ever stated that the goal was to “change the behavior of worldly people”? Galatians 2: 21 and 3: 21 have nothing whatsoever to do with laws that govern the citizens of a nation. As a Premillennial Dispensationalist, I believe that there will be laws during the Millennial Kingdom, set up by Christ Himself that will be disobeyed by those citizens of that Kingdom. Were those laws a “waste of time”? I don’t know anyone who believes a law will change a persons behavior. Its design is to discourage certain behavior, and to establish a unifying principle, which the citizenry can govern themselves. As a member of the Religious Right, I want homosexual behavior discouraged through the legislative process. In California, right now, it is being encouraged. So what, you say! Take a look at the news around the country, in Canada, and in Europe when these laws are passed, take a look, at what happens to Christians who preach the gospel, and condemn homosexual behavior as sin. You don’t think it is worth the effort to try to stop that from happening nationwide? I do.

We have the true and only answer to sins like homosexuality, divorce, drug addiction, and other forms of rampant immorality. It's the glorious liberty of salvation in Christ. It's a message about the grace of God, which has accomplishes what no law could ever do. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation—Good News that truly changes hearts—and we need to proclaim that message. Politically-driven hostility against our neighbors is not the best way to let the light of the glorious gospel of Christ shine unto them.

We have the answer to LIFE, period. Who, in the Religious Right, disputes that? As for this, “politically driven hostility against our neighbors is not the best way to let the light of the glorious gospel of Christ shine unto them.” So, are you suggesting that the gospel itself will not cause “hostility” against our neighbors? The gospel is a message that condemns man in his very being you cannot get more intrusive than that as far as an unbeliever is concerned. Whether being identified, as a “Christian Conservative” or a “Political Conservative” is not the issue, as you have wrongfully done, the issue is a full-frontal attack by satanic forces in the guise of our leftist secular anti-American, anti-religious political organs in this country.

We are ambassadors of the true light, who came down to earth to seek and to save the lost—not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.

Are you seriously suggesting that the Religious Right is destroying men’s lives? I grant you they are ticking off a lot of people because of their unyielding stand on the moral issues, but so does the gospel.

If you don't have a sense of deep compassion and heartfelt benevolence toward sinners, you're not letting your light shine. If you, as a redeemed sinner, look on other sinners with no feeling but disgust, that's nothing but pride. That was the very sin of the Pharisee in Luke 18:11, who "stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican." And Jesus said that attitude is what kept him from being justified in God's eyes. Jesus, by contrast, "when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd."

This statement is so wrong headed, I don’t know where to begin. Phil, do you think Larry King and his guests think John MacArthur has a “deep compassion and heartfelt benevolence toward sinners”? Of course not! They think John is an unloving bigot who should shut his mouth and stay in his church. Some may have a grudging respect for him and the stance he takes for Christian morality, but they do not believe he is either loving or compassionate. And I know you would agree with me that John is loving and compassionate, but is rightly unwilling to compromise biblical standards of morality, as does the Religious Right.
Anytime we preach the TRUTH of God’s Word we will be hated by the world, you of all people know that. When I, or you, or anyone else, speak up in a church, in a meeting at City Hall, in the barbershop, or in front of CPAC, we will be hated for proclaiming a message that the secular left despises and is dedicated to wiping out of our political, and eventually, our national conversation. If they can’t stop our message with political censure, they will pass laws, institute fines, throw us in jail, and if not all that works, kill us. I am not afraid of the persecution that will come with a take over by the secular left in this country, but I will not stand by and let it happen without a fight. And if the political arena is where we have to take this fight for the time being, then God Bless the Religious Right for having the courage to engage the enemy in that arena, rather than wait until they start banging on our church doors.

dac said...

Pregnancy
Information
Center

For example www.applepcc.org


djp

Was yours meant as a joke, commentary or ignorance?

DJP said...

I have to pick just one?

Jay said...

I'll give a hearty "hear, hear" to Reformedmommy. It is easier for many Christians to drown themselves in political activism, because it doesn't require the sort of day-to-day witnessing you describe. But like Phil said, legislation can never be a witness. Ever.

Legislation may discourage some people to not commit certain sins for fear of public shame or prosecution, and that may be good for society, but it's not good for sinners. A homosexual man doesn't need to abstain from gay sex because it's against the country's law, but because it is against God's Law. The difference seems significant to me.

Solameanie said...

Thanks for the reminder about compassion. "When lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold."

trogdor said...

So, if we weren’t part of the Religious Right they would no longer consider us as enemies?

Of course they would. I may be mistaken, but the problem Phil's addressing is exactly the opposite - that we come to view and treat *them* as enemies. That we can exult in their misfortune and wish ill upon them. That we send them the message "I hate you and everything you stand for - but hey, it would be just peachy if you came to Jesus". Instead of being brokenhearted at their sinfulness, we view them as the wicked enemy who hopefully will get what they deserve - forgetting that if not for the grace of God, we'd be no different, and our role is to call them out of their darkness and into the wonderful light of Christ.

Name me one evangelical leader in the Religious Right who has ever stated that the goal was to “change the behavior of worldly people”?

So the goal is to pass laws that don't even “change the behavior of worldly people”? What is the point then, exactly?

We have the answer to LIFE, period. Who, in the Religious Right, disputes that?

Nobody that I know of. The question is, who in the Religious Right proclaims that? Sadly, the answer is the same. Which is the whole point of this series, I think.

This statement is so wrong headed, I don’t know where to begin. Phil, do you think Larry King and his guests think John MacArthur has a “deep compassion and heartfelt benevolence toward sinners”? Of course not!

Phil's statement had nothing to do with whether or not the world will see and appreciate it. It was about whether or not we actually have it. Slightly huge difference.

Phil Johnson said...

Stephen Wilson:

Click the "politics" tag at the foot of the above post, read the whole series I have done, in which I have answered virtually all your arguments, and then if you want to come back and argue, bring it.

This (as the post itself notes) is the tail end of a long series. And if you want me to respond to an angry diatribe, I'm going to insist that you first actually read the series, and interact with arguments I have actually made (as opposed to the rather imaginative ideas you have tried to impute to me). I'm quite sure I have explained myself sufficiently in the series itself.

For the record, I think today's evangelical activism is also a noble cause. Wrongheaded, to be sure, and dangerously off-track. But there's a sense in which it is "noble." It's the very same sense in which the prohibitionist cause was noble. But, as you admit, that was wrongheaded.

I never suggested that any authentic evangelicals who identify with the religious right are "pharisees." I was clearly talking about those they have forged political alliances with—ranging from crackpots like Pat Robertson (who is no evangelical in the historic sense) to more serious and well-meaning but thoroughly works-oriented religious leaders like Rabbi Daniel Lapin and John Richard Neuhaus. I think that would have been perfectly clear to someone who had been reading this series from the beginning.

(In fact it should have been obvious to anyone who simply paid attention to the actual statement in the above post alone.)

Phil Johnson said...

Trogdor:

Bingo. Thanks.

~Mark said...

This post is a big help 'cause it reminds me to keep looking on "lost sheep", not "enemies out to get me and make my life harder unless I use the God weapon on them first."

Good point brought up by Reformedmommy too! God allowed me a bit of humiliation to bring me back to my senses one fine summer day as I was washing my truck.

Our local "crazy guy who walks everywhere and talks to himself and has a long beard and dirty clothes and you wonder just how he survives" had popped up a few times that day, and I found myself praying for him.

I was doing a good job too man, I was praying for his soul, his well being and all that good stuff and BOY was I gettin' holy.

Just I was was in the midst of washing my fender and asking God to bring that guy somebody who could effectively witness to him, two things happened: 1) he suddenly came from behind my fence, walking past my driveway.
2) I actually ducked down, telling myself I was cleaning my tire, and the thought "Oh no! What if I have to be that somebody?" ran through my head.

I was red-faced and thoroughly embarrassed by that thought. Especially when not long afterward I heard the story of a guy in my position who resisted the urge to flee, DID talk to the neighborhood crazy guy and ended up leading him to Christ.

To form relationships with some lost people is "easier" than with some others, but all are the same lost sheep who need a personal introduction to the personal Savior.

Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike said...

I have to pick just one?

DJP: It was all three?

dac said...

djp

pick however many you like

In my ignorance I simply assumed that if you put Christians and abortion in the same paragraph, most would understand what a PIC was referring to.

I am amused that so many here would likely be able to define dispensationalism but not know what a PIC is.

Sharon said...

Dac: I am amused that so many here would likely be able to define dispensationalism but not know what a PIC is.

Maybe because we're more interested in biblical doctrine than social trends?

A Musician by Grace
(Who had no clue was PIC was, either)

Mike said...

stephen wilson:

Isn't there such a thing as the "religious left"?

Anyway, in that there should be a separation of church and state, you're right. What does the gvmt have to do with the church and vice versa? And it's not our job to legislatively prepare for the return of the Lord.

Mike said...

DAC: I am amused that so many here would likely be able to define dispensationalism but not know what a PIC is.

I think because I'm a PIC (Pious Inactive Christian). LOL!

Stephen Wilson said...

“Click the "politics" tag at the foot of the above post, read the whole series I have done, in which I have answered virtually all your arguments, and then if you want to come back and argue, bring it.”

I have been reading your posts on this issue from the beginning with the comments. But, I will go back and read them again if you think you have already answered my arguments. I don’t think you have, but I’m willing to take another look.

“This is (as the post itself notes) the tail end of a long series. And if you want me to respond to an angry diatribe, I'm going to insist that you first actually read the series, and interact with arguments I have actually made as opposed to the rather imaginative ideas you have tried to impute to me. I'm quite sure I have explained myself sufficiently in the series itself.”

Two points:

1) This was not an “angry diatribe.” I am not, nor was I then, angry. I have been irritated by the fact that you keep coming to this topic over and over. It seems to me that you might have an axe to grind. My intention in posting was to answer what I consider a fallacious argument against the many fine Christian folks, and churches, that are involved in the political arena called the Religious Right, whose express purpose is to try and stop a political movement. I know you have said that you have no problem with individuals who wish to involve themselves in the political arena, but then you say this, “For the record, I think today’s evangelical activism is also a noble cause, wrongheaded, to be sure, and dangerously off-track.” Sounds to me like you do have a problem with it.
2) “Imaginative ideas”? I deliberately posted your own words and responded to what you said, not what I dreamed up in my imagination.

“For the record, I think today's evangelical activism is also a noble cause. Wrongheaded, to be sure, and dangerously off-track. But there's a sense in which it is noble. The very same sense in which the prohibitionist cause was noble. But, as you admit, wrongheaded.”

False analogy, the prohibitionist cause is not analogous to the issue of abortion and homosexuality. You keep making that comparison and it is just wrong. I’ve read enough of your material to know you are smarter than that.

“I never suggested that any authentic evangelicals who identify with the religious right are "pharisees." I was clearly talking about those they have forged political alliances with--ranging from crackpots like Pat Robertson (who is no evangelical in the historic sense) to more serious and well-meaning but thoroughly works-oriented religious leaders like Rabbi Daniel Lapin and John Richard Neuhaus. I think that would have been perfectly clear to someone who had been reading this series from the beginning.”

I agree with you about Robertson, so too TBN, Swaggert, Bakker, and the many other so-called evangelicals that have made us out to be a public laughingstock. Moreover, we agree again, Lapin, Neuhaus, and others who identify with our views on the moral issues are not Evangelicals, but so what? We’re not joining them in a worldwide evangelical outreach, we join them in using the tools available to us to try and stop a hostile takeover of our nation by leftists. I know your basic argument is that the church should not be in the business of politics. I say the church is already in the business of politics simply because politics has stuck its intrusive nose in our territory. If the moral issues were not on the table, I’m with ya. But they are, and that’s my point.

Look, Phil, I have a pretty good idea of where you are coming. I am a graduate of Biola College (1978), Talbot (1982 MDiv and ThM 2008), and know many of the people you know. Moreover, John MacArthur was a young conference speaker when I first heard him in 1968. I have had the pleasure to have met and talked with him several times, and told him that he was a major reason for me going into full-time Christian ministry, and I still support his ministry whenever I can. Thank God for men like John, for he is one of a few men on these television shows who speak the truth. I say all that to point out that I am not your enemy. Of course, knowing how what we write can sometimes be construed differently than what we are thinking is one of the hazards of blogging I guess.

Frank Turk said...

I'm thinking about a country in which there are no abortions, no divorces, no drinking, no murders, no orphans -- a country where, in short, people have attained the highest moral achievements in the world.

Now, I want anyone reading this to think about this as clearly as possible with me: is it more likely that this country would reach this place by the power of a morally-perfect legislation, or by the power of the Gospel?

.

.

.

Seriously.

Mike said...

Trogdor (in your answer to DAC):
Have to agree with you, too.

Mike said...

Frank:
Now, I want anyone reading this to think about this as clearly as possible with me: is it more likely that this country would reach this place by the power of a morally-perfect legislation, or by the power of the Gospel?

To answer that, just wait til after Jesus returns.

Stephen Wilson said...

Mike-
“Anyway, in that there should be a separation of church and state, you're right. What does the gvmt have to do with the church and vice versa? And it's not our job to legislatively prepare for the return of the Lord.”

The government has imposed itself in the business of the church, not vice versa. The government is not my worry at the moment, but it is the people who are trying very hard to take over our government that worry me. “Worry” in the sense of legitimate concern, not in the sense that it is up to us (me) or we are all doomed. God is in control.

Your other point makes no sense.

Stephen Wilson said...

Trogdor_
“The problem Phil's addressing is exactly the opposite - that we come to view and treat *them* as enemies. That we can exult in their misfortune and wish ill upon them. That we send them the message "I hate you and everything you stand for - but hey, it would be just peachy if you came to Jesus"”.

Please send me the quote, with sources, of anyone on the Religious Right who has said such a thing, or even implied such a thing. You said that those of us in the Religious Right, “come to view and treat them as enemies.” You bet! Anyone who’s primary goal is to stop the church from preaching and teaching on the moral issues of the day is my enemy. And by the way, they are God’s enemy too. Look folks, these are not people who are simply yelling epithets from the sidelines, these are people who are dedicated to our destruction. And, by the way, I have several exact quotes to that affect if you want them. Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Buddahists, Ba Hai, Scientologists, Secular Leftists, Secular Rightists, and others are our enemies, but like Jesus said we are to love our enemies. I love homosexuals, but I will fight to stop them from forcing their lifestyle down my throat.

“So the goal is to pass laws that don't even “change the behavior of worldly people”? What is the point then, exactly?”

Same reason we pass laws against murder, rape, child endangerment, insider trading, tax evasion, etc. The point is to preserve society and engender civic morality.

“Phil's statement had nothing to do with whether or not the world will see and appreciate it. It was about whether or not we actually have it.”

I don’t judge the hearts of people in the movement, all I can judge is what they say and write, and I have never heard any member of the Religious Right say they hate the people who hate them. Perhaps there is, I just haven’t heard it.

dac said...

"Maybe because we're more interested in biblical doctrine than social trends?"

social trends? Well, thats another way of talking about orthopraxy, I guess.

Rick Frueh said...

"As one who works in a ministry seeking to reach those involved in the political realm with the gospel, I fear our light is often particularly hidden to those serving in the world of politics."

That is, in my inane opinion, the one God given political activism. I admire you and your calling.

Stephen Wilson said...

“I'm thinking about a country in which there are no abortions, no divorces, no drinking, no murders, no orphans -- a country where, in short, people have attained the highest moral achievements in the world.

Now, I want anyone reading this to think about this as clearly as possible with me: is it more likely that this country would reach this place by the power of a morally-perfect legislation, or by the power of the Gospel?”

Excellent question Frank! You said “country” so I take it you are referring to nations on earth, not the coming Nation on earth. The answer is neither. There is no such thing as “morally perfect legislation,” and the power of the Gospel is limited in its scope, i.e., those whom God has chosen to be adopted into His family. Our task is to be salt and light in a world of corruption and darkness. The church should be actively involved in effecting both our worlds unsaved, and our worlds governments.

Mike said...

stephen wilson:

The government is not my worry at the moment, but it is the people who are trying very hard to take over our government that worry me. “Worry” in the sense of legitimate concern, not in the sense that it is up to us (me) or we are all doomed. God is in control.

Yep, God is in control! There's no point in having "legitimate concern," but, in terms of human frailties, I have the same concern.

Stephen Wilson said...

Jay-
I'll give a hearty "hear, hear" to Reformedmommy. It is easier for many Christians to drown themselves in political activism, because it doesn't require the sort of day-to-day witnessing you describe. But like Phil said, legislation can never be a witness. Ever.

This is where you are wrong. As a pastor, and member of many church staffs, I have participated in various forms of evangelical and political endeavors, whether that be standing on the street preaching with “Open Air Campaigners,” witnessing to folks at the mall or on the beach, or participating in a pro-life rally, I have never made a distinction between the two. Being salt and light means proclaiming the gospel by word and by deed.

Legislation may discourage some people to not commit certain sins for fear of public shame or prosecution, and that may be good for society, but it's not good for sinners. A homosexual man doesn't need to abstain from gay sex because it's against the country's law, but because it is against God's Law. The difference seems significant to me.

Civic legislation that discourages sinful behavior and promotes public shame for immorality is a good thing for society, and the church. No one on my side of the argument - that I know of - believes it saves anyone. However, it does promote a safer environment for our families, and it also provide a more receptive audience for our message.

simplemann said...

True and last changing can only be wrought by the power of the Spirit working from the inside out. I lived life as a sinner for 27 years before the conversion took place in my life. I am still a sinner, although glory be to God not nearly to the extent that I was all those wretched years. It is only through Christ that I may stand justified before God. Him and Him alone. But the type of change so many religious groups are seeking to bring about by applying pressure through government–to influence change from the outside-in is not only doomed to fail (as history demonstrates over and over again), it is also counterproductive to the mission field.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” (Luke 10:2-4)

Jesus sent His disciples directly to the mission field. He did not send them to go reason with the Pharisees and to see what they might be able to do help their cause by enforcing stricter legislation. He didn’t send them off with bags of money to go and influence lobbyists. In fact, he made sure that they took no money with them. How completely antithetical is this approach to what is taking place today by religious groups in Washington? And we wonder why our culture is swallowing up the Christian? We have lost our ability to think outside our culture and to rely on the Holy Spirit. We have become so immersed in our culture that we no longer live “separate, set apart”–which is what the term “holiness” originally meant.

In a certain sense, our culture is a lot like our children. We should lead by example, and allow for growth and maturity through the normal process of learning and making mistakes. Our example should be humility and true righteousness in Christ, not arrogance and self-righteousness. Who, as a parent, refuses to let their child touch anything, do anything, say anything, eat anything, etc., that might harm them or cause them embarrassment? Or even worse, might embarrass the parent? Not a very good parent in my estimation. As we grow as children, we learn by making mistakes. We say and do the wrong things. We suffer consequences. We mess up and break things. Sometimes we break a heart. Sometimes our own is broken. But God uses those things to teach us and grow us.

We cannot remove every possible risk from our environment so that our children never get hurt, any more than we can remove every possible temptation so that our society never sins. It’s going to happen. And if you really trust in God’s sovereignty, you can even allow for the fact that it is good that it does. I know
I can speak from my own personal experience as a corrupted sinner for years and years, that clearly I know God’s goodness and His righteousness, perhaps no better than when contrasted with my own sinful nature. Not that I would suggest that anyone pursue sin to better know and appreciate God’s righteousness, for as the Apostle Paul wrote, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:1-3)

Jay said...

Civic legislation that discourages sinful behavior and promotes public shame for immorality is a good thing for society, and the church. No one on my side of the argument - that I know of - believes it saves anyone. However, it does promote a safer environment for our families, and it also provide a more receptive audience for our message.

I can only speak of my personal experience with homosexuality and those who minister to homosexuals (though I suppose the general arguments could be applied to other sins of a similar nature).

The problem with promoting public shame for immorality is that it also promotes public shame for those merely tempted by such immorality. This keeps such individuals indefinitely silent about their struggles, and that helps no one. It usually deeply hurts the individual involved, and can lead to disastrous consequences among marriages and families.

Now I'm not saying that immorality should be celebrated or even seen as neutral. Nor was Phil, I think. What the Church (and the Religious Right) need to do is address these issues with more humility than they have been. It's fine to call out homosexuals and fornicators for the sinfulness of their sin. What is not fine is to leave it at that.

I have read numerous articles by Religious Right leaders explaining how sinful homosexuality is, how dangerous it is to society and how wicked its practitioners are. Unfortunately, the tone - and even the message - of such pieces could be greatly lifted by just a few words tacked on the end by the author: And I, too, am just as sinful, dangerous, and wicked, if not for Christ.

If Christians in politcs can't deal with these issues with humility and compassion, then they don't need to deal with them at all.

Phil Johnson said...

Stephen Wilson: "you have said that you have no problem with individuals who wish to involve themselves in the political arena, but then you say this, 'For the record, I think today’s evangelical activism is also a noble cause, wrongheaded, to be sure, and dangerously off-track.' Sounds to me like you do have a problem with it.'"

I definitely have a problem with the style of today's brand of evangelical activism. That's my whole point. But that doesn't rule out legitimate individual grassroots political involvement—unless you assume the only way for a Christian individual to be politically active is to jump on the big bandwagon of the "religious right," ape the behavior of those who currently have the steering wheel of that juggernaut, and follow the already-failed strategies the major figures in the movement (ranging from Robertson to Falwell to Colson-Neuhaus) have been following for two decades.

Your inability (or unwillingness) to make such a simple distinction hampers your ability to get my point, I think. But given the fact that you're not willing to defend Pat Robertson, I suspect you actually do see the point more than you want to let on.

I've consistently explained the expression "evangelical activism" as a reference to the current (and past 20 years' or so) efforts to mobilize evangelicals as a voting bloc with a view to a handful of very specific, too-narrowly-focused moral-agenda legislative measures, ranging from legitimate concerns such as abortion to romantic fancies such as prayer in public schools (which issue some religious righties have probably never given 5 minutes' sober thought)—thus deflecting the energies of the church as a body (or a major aspect of it) into the political arena, where the church was never called to wield her clout in the first place.

So for the record, I do indeed object to the goals of individuals who employ such tactics and who use (or misuse) their standing in the community of God's people to try to lobby for votes. But not all evangelicals who have legitimate interests in politics are like that. And I did address this in one of my previous posts.

But once more: blessings on those who whose calling is to government service or electoral office. I hope their first priority as Christians is to be a good testimony of authentic integrity and faith in that arena, especially toward other individuals. But I've never said if that's your calling, I'm OK with your trying to mobilize evangelicals into a mass movement devoted to some agenda that in effect deflects the church's energies from its true mission. OK?

Stephen Wilson: "Imaginative ideas"? I deliberately posted your own words and responded to what you said, not what I dreamed up in my imagination.

Actually, Trogdor already pointed out several ways you grossly twisted what I said. Quoting my actual words doesn't indicate that you have truly made an effort to hear them, especially when you misconstrue things as badly as you did.

Stephen Wilson: . . .and others who identify with our views on the moral issues are not Evangelicals, but so what? We’re not joining them in a worldwide evangelical outreach, we join them in using the tools available to us to try and stop a hostile takeover of our nation by leftists.

Nevertheless, alliances between evangelicals and false religious leaders are being made and the gospel is deliberately toned down in the political arena in order to protect those alliances and maintain political "respectability." As I've pointed out, this is the very reason Colson has championed Evangelical/Roman Catholic rapprochement (and that's spelled out as the very first argument given in the ECT document itself).

This all seems perfectly analogous to Ahaz's alliance with the Assyrians in 2 Kings 16, forged in order "to try and stop a hostile takeover" of Judah by Rezin and the Syrian armies. The goal was "noble" in a very limited sense, but the strategy was wrongheaded—to the point of being abominable.

It's in that very same sense that the Prohibitionists' goals and strategies are likewise indeed analagous to the contemporary religious right. They wanted to address the problem of runaway drunkenness in an increasingly anti-Christian society. They managed to fail in even the most superficial of their goals, and I would argue to that to the degree that they diverted the church's energies from the proclamation of the gospel they also made America even more determinedly anti-Christian. It seems obvious to me that 20 years of organized evangelical politicking has had precisely the same effect. None of the presidential candidates this year even make a credible pretense of being sympathetic with any of the truly spiritual convictions of evangelicals. That ought to qualify as catastrophic failure in any sober person's judgment.

But I do understand why someone already devoted to evangelical political activism—someone who genuinely thinks the lostness of our culture is epitomized in certain legislative issues—wouldn't want to admit that.

Rick Frueh said...

There are godly and committed believing followers of the Lord Jesus involved on some level in what we call politics. But their motivation is redemption and spiritual reconciliation, and they humbly recognize that any moral adjustment without Christ is of little benefit. Only God knows the names of these soldiers, camouflaged in a fallen system, but like that commenter "Tim" I admire them and pray that God will use them and never let them get so embedded they forget their commission and begin to believ what is just a mirage.

david rudd said...

serious questions.

would everyone agree that:

- if the church as a whole put as much effort (i'm assuming we do not right now) into proclaiming the gospel as they do into proclaiming political ideals, this would be a step in the right direction?

- if the church as a whole put as much effort (i'm assuming we do not right now) matthew 25 type activities as they do into proclaiming political ideals, this would be a step in the right direction?

ReformedMommy said...

"Civic legislation that discourages sinful behavior and promotes public shame for immorality is a good thing for society, and the church. No one on my side of the argument - that I know of - believes it saves anyone. However, it does promote a safer environment for our families, and it also provide a more receptive audience for our message."

Certainly, just like a particular regimen of nutritional supplements and vitamins can help someone with potentially terminal cancer. But the argument has been made pretty forcefully that too often and in many cases, the emphasis is being placed far more on the vitamins than it is on the proven therapies like chemo and surgery.

Here's the irony - let's use the example of homosexual marriage, just cause it's really close to home for me. I have signed every petition and voted for every resolution to confine the recognition of marriage to that between a man and a woman. I have written my government leaders. I have even, EVEN prayed for them. Amazingly, those efforts have been summarily and even unconsitutionally rejected. Quelle surprise. We have done everything in our power to make the cancer patient take the vitamins, and they have expressed their appreciation by putting their fingers down their throat and forcefully returned them to us. Yes, had they taken them, they would have felt better for a little while. And so would we. But inevitably, the short term benefits would be swallowed up by the long term tragic and eternal losses.

Will I keep signing petitions and voting for resolutions? Yes, and probably so will everyone else at my church. Do I squirm at the thought of I and my kids being marginalized and persecuted over our refusal to get with the times? Yes (to my shame, as even the weakest, most immature believer living in China endures far worse for the sake of Christ every day.) But, I and my church will be spending more time in trying to more effectively declare and live the Gospel, which offers freely the promise of a 100% cure for eternity, courtesy of the Great Physician, even as we futilely sign more petitions and vote more resolutions.

Yepiz said...

I'm not sure if anyone has said what I'm about to say, but I'll say it anyhow.

I agree 100% with what Phil has said. But I would add that we still need to fulfill our obligation to vote through the lens of our Christian worldview. yes, we cannot change the world through politics. Only the gospel can change the world. But we must also vote accordingly.

This is my qualm with many Christians who vote for "social justice" (aka left-wing politics) and they don't take into consideration abortion, gay-marriage, and so on. I think my frustration is what has come out inthe religious right's activism through politics.

But they have replaced their savior for another false God.

Preach the gospel always. Change the world that way. But if you do vote, vote consistantly please.

ReformedMommy said...

Jay -
I appreciate the comments you've made here on several posts tremendously (if someone could let me know how I can learn to do the whole HTML tags thingie so that I could both bold and italicize 'tremendously', that would be fab). Without going too far afield here, I've both seen and demonstrated (God forgive me)that lack of compassion, where the Gospel is wielded like a sledgehammer instead of offered with tears. The particular challenge with the 21st century public square, whether the media, the blogosphere, or the political arena, is its propensity to try and condense everything into a very small, neat package - a sound bite, a blog post or comment, a protest here, a boycott there. Meanwhile, the supposed objects of all this sturm and drang, the lost souls destined for a frightful end, get lost in the shuffle. That's why Phil's post here today was encouraging, and yet leaves me hoping that there will perhaps be a follow up post or posts later. Just what does that "deep compassion and heartfelt benevolence" look like?? Al Mohler recently made a really helpful statement at the New Attitude conference when asked that question by saying something like the reasons that homosexuality and sins of its ilk are so abominable to God is that they are some of the most blatant external expressions of what is inwardly in the heart of every person. IOW, when I look at a homosexual, I truly and genuinely need to see myself. That was a huge lightbulb moment for my mind, but I'm still trying to work through how it needs to translate into action. I agree with many here - it's probably not more petitions, but what it IS takes a lot more thought.

Jay said...

Thanks, Reformedmommy. :) I am thankful for your posts as well. I hate the culture's habit of making nice neat packages of complicated matters as well (and I'm just as guilty of it as anyone else). I think the most important thing for us to remember is to preach the Gospel with humility.

We should be clear that we're all sinners, and talk about the sins that we share with unbelievers more than the ones that are foreign to us (like homosexuality is to most people). Those are the kinds of things that the Christians who have most impacted my life have done, and I'd like to return the favor. :)

I'm sure this could relate back to politics somehow, but if it's off topic I'll glady shut up. (c:

John said...

This is from one of Michael Horton's 'White Horse Inn' commentaries from about a year ago:

"What would things look like if Satan actually took over a city? The first frames in our imaginary slideshow will probably depict mayhem on a massive scale-widespread violence, deviant sexuality, pornography in every vending machine, the Democrats winning all of the chambers of Congress and the White Horse, churches being closed down and worshippers being dragged off to City Hall. Well, over a half-century ago, Donald Grey Barnhouse, pastor of Philadelphia's Tenth Presbyterian Church gave his CBS radio audience a different picture of what it would look like if Satan took control of a town in America. He said, "All of the bars and pool halls would be closed, pornography banished, pristine streets and sidewalks occupied by tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing, the kids would say, 'Yes, sir,' and 'No, ma'am' and the churches would be full on Sunday where Christ is not preached." "

It seemed to fit the discussion...

Steve Scott said...

"I'm thinking about a country in which there are no abortions, no divorces, no drinking, no murders, no orphans"

No drinking? Frank, you mean no drunkenness, don't you?

Frank Turk said...

Stephen Wilson said:

[QUOTE]
Excellent question Frank! You said “country” so I take it you are referring to nations on earth, not the coming Nation on earth. The answer is neither. There is no such thing as “morally perfect legislation,” ...
[/QUOTE]

If you had stopped right there, you would have been exactly right, and you would have had all the philosophical and theological ammo you would have needed to change your mind about this topic. But instead you appended this:

[QUOTE]
... and the power of the Gospel is limited in its scope, i.e., those whom God has chosen to be adopted into His family.
[/QUOTE]

It's funny, but when Paul talks about the "power of the Gospel", he says, "it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek".

What you are exercising here is what I would call "bad Calvinism". That is, you are taking the limits of the atonement the wrong way, and looking at election in a way which the Bible does not. Election is an encouragement to those who believe that God will not fail, not a caution about how limited the power of God will be.

And in that, Paul puts confidence in the Gospel as the only hope for mankind -- which is a very different view than the one you have phrased here.

[QUOTE]
Our task is to be salt and light in a world of corruption and darkness. The church should be actively involved in effecting both our worlds unsaved, and our worlds governments.
[/QUOTE]

WOW. Not to channel Doug Pagitt here, but WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW.

I'd like to see any passage in the NT which you think instructs the church to "effect" the government in the way you mean here.

Frank Turk said...

Steve:

I speak in moralist, human terms, not in terms of the actual morality of the NT. Hypothetically.

simplemann said...

To John - In response, who clipped the paragraph or so of info from the White Horse Inn and the quote from Donald Grey Barnhouse over a half-century ago: "WOW. Nice." That church there in Philadelphia has really been blessed with some astute, observant teachers of the Word. I have been so blessed by the teachings of Barnhouse, Boice, and Ryken as I've dug into their writings. That's a great quote. I dare say that it brings that "Smiling 'pastor'" (cringe) down in Houston to mind.

Thanks for sharing that.
Peace & Blessings,
Simple Mann

Dave. said...

Several point out the duel problem of nailing sinners versus nailing sins (or sin). Several ways to avoid these issues include citing God's Word, including the "whole counsel of God", being guided by the concepts of the nearer we are to Him, the greater our sins appear (Paul a good example), remaining humble "taking heed lest we fall". We are to be in but not of the world, unspotted, yet salt and light, telling other beggars where we found bread, and plucking them out of the fire in love being fully conscious that He died for the ungodly including us while we were yet sinners. Concepts such as Life, Light, and Love should be reflected in our politics, our citizenry thus we are pro-life, pro-marriage (God's not man's concept), pro-family (ibid.), pro-work/ownership, etc. The division of government is based on the Christian concept of man being inherently wicked - a sinner, hence the need for checks and balances. Representative government requires a foundationally sound citizenry, informed and participatory in its workings - lacking this results in our current morass.
Dave.

Dave. said...

To stephen wilson:
Your comments relative to people on the radio, television, internet reminded me of www.vcyamerica.org, wwww.sliceoflaodecia.org., www.faith2action.org and others which tell me and countless others how to "put our faith to action". The last website purports to be a "clearinghouse" of links to multiple issues, states, and a sincere effort to address the issue of "PIC". Edmund Burke's comment as a spring board, Janet Folger has gone from right to life issues to stirring Christians nationwide to healthy participation in their church,self, home, neighborhood, state and nation. Check out her latest book "Criminalization of Christianity" - a match to "fire up" any Christian!
Dave.

Mike Riccardi said...

Frank,

Could Stephen have meant affect and not effect?

Mike Riccardi said...

I suppose that wouldn't make any difference, though, given the way he's using it.

Nevermind. Continue in shocked disbelief.

Traditions ~ 2 thess.2:15 said...

Phil, I have to say Abortion,is always* Death and Destructive.So Homosexuality is also always* a Sin.. Always according again to Gods Word. The country that we are living in gives us a voice,vote in allowing,or promoting,limiting or prohibiting these Sins!Why would they be compared to prohibition which is prohibiting the moderate use of alcohol as well as Drunkenness? Many Christians in europe are somehow able to use wine / alcohol in moderation.I cannot the Lord Had to deliver me from it.
A Biblical Mandate to do something"
http://www.abort73.com/HTML/III-E-mandate.html

a_simple_bloggTRotter said...

Please excuse this comment if there if a simple answer that I have simply overlooked.

As I see it, there is no clear way from scripture to view a believer with a vote (that has value in even the least sense of the word) in a republic. In either text or context, my toehold slips. This world and the things of this world seems to cover too much of the political landscape and then all the “possibilities” of being a Christian living in a land of such unheard-of liberty crash against them.

I see room for excess. I see ample room to pontificate about “a city on a hill”. ( Either a personal witness or “evangelical real estate”.) I sense a hybrid Manifest Destiny wrapping itself with well-intentioned gropings in the arena of political sociology , ethics, and philosophy . I have even seen the common attitude of “not on my street”.

America exists: a political reality that ( as far as I can tell) demands an answer from the believers that are by God’s providence, placed here.

The very best that I can do to date is to remember that the church survived Nero’s Rome and worse, and outlived him and it. It is faithfulness to my Savior and to the gospel that matters.

Do not tell me that we have to change our country to pave the way for the church, to make it “easier” or “safer” for her, or to created a “climate” that is better suited to the gospel. A cross beside my Savior was suited for the gospel, among the tombs, naked and in chains was suited, and so was the very city peopled with those who had cried “crucify Him”. There is a question of stewardship, yes, and even the issue of not calling evil good. But, as confused as I am on how to be a believer in America, I do not think it is the role of social engineer.

Please correct me if I am wrong ( and I really invite that), but is the only place where God’s absolute sovereignty and my vote ( which, again, I am supposing has at least some kind of value) reconciled found here:

13:1 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.


Are we seeing the fruition of mob rule? Has Plato’s republic now become our hope, with its philosopher kings to guide us to a “golden mean”? I do not want to be part of a mob. And even a “golden” morality will leave its adherents hell-bound without the truth of the gospel.

See, I always leave these comments more confounded than when I start them.

a_simple_bloggTRotter said...

Wait a second: what about discipleship?

Maybe the only kind of political activism is sound discipleship.

Maybe?

Stephen Wilson said...

Frank said, "What you are exercising here is what I would call "bad Calvinism". That is, you are taking the limits of the atonement the wrong way, and looking at election in a way which the Bible does not. Election is an encouragement to those who believe that God will not fail, not a caution about how limited the power of God will be."

I never said the power of God was limited. I said the “power of the Gospel is limited in its scope,” i.e., it is effective for whomever believes, but limited in its scope in that not everyone will believe. You grossly mischaracterized my argument. I Howard Marshall in discussing Paul’s teaching in Romans 9 concerning the limits of the gospel’s effects said, “Second, he stresses how vital it is that the gospel be preached so as to give people the opportunity to believe. Faith comes as a consequence of hearing the message, but it is possible to hear and not to believe.” (Marshall, New Testament Theology, p. 325. Emphasis mine).

Frank said, "And in that, Paul puts confidence in the Gospel as the only hope for mankind --which is a very different view than the one you have phrased here."

As I pointed out above, you mischaracterized my argument. You are letting your emotions get the better of you, as you do below.

Frank said, "WOW. Not to channel Doug Pagitt here, but WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW. I'd like to see any passage in the NT which you think instructs the church to "effect" the government in the way you mean here. I speak in moralist, human terms, not in terms of the actual morality of the NT. Hypothetically."

I meant “affect” not “effct.” Calm down Frank, hysterics will get us nowhere. You, and Phil, have a bad habit of overreacting when someone posts an argument you don’t agree with, especially with those in which you have some sort of emotional attachment. A case in point is your use of “clown.” If you don’t like an argument, you say, “I’m gonna clown you,” or “If you were on my site, I’d clown you.” What is that, Frank? Sounds like something you would hear on a postmo site. I’ve read a lot of your material, you are a very funny, and bright guy, you don’t need to resort to childish name-calling.

So, you would like to see a passage in which the church is to affect the government in the way I stated. Ok, how about more than one? Matt. 5: 13-16, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” In both cases the implication is the same, we believers, the church, the corporate body of Christ, are to be like salt (providing flavor and acting as a preservative in arresting decay) as well as light (shining the light of God’s purity, truth, and knowledge in a world of darkness) in the world. The “world” means everything (including the government). Ministers of God are called “the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14), and are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life (Phil 2:15-16), and being “sons of the light” (Lk. 16:8). Thus, to be both salt and light the church must be separate from the world’s darkness, but at the same time it must mingle itself with the unsavory in order to produce the kind of change it was meant to produce, without becoming tasteless or uninteresting.
I Cor. 2: 13-15, the key portion; “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things.” That includes the government and its policies. Therefore, to speak out publicly about political matters with the goal of affecting change is biblically acceptable. See also, I Cor. 10: 31, and “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.” (Titus 3: 1). That’s directed to the church in Corinth by the way.
Finally, the book of Psalms provides a very good warning as to the foolishness of not being involved in political issues:

“The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored by men” (Ps. 12: 8)

You and Phil seem to think that the Bible creates a distinction between church ministry and individual ministry. You claim individual Christians are permitted to be involved in government, to vote, to volunteer for whatever political candidate they wish. But, the church is given no such permission. The church is not to organize, or be involved politically to affect change, the church cannot speak out against legislation that will ruin not only the country, but the church as well, the church is to proclaim the gospel, and anything else is a waste of its time and resources. That’s your argument, right?

My argument is that the goal of all Christian involvement/ministry/agenda is to effect (def. “success in bringing about a change in somebody or something, or the ability to achieve this”) change in our society, whether corporately or individually. They are one and the same, and you guys want to separate them.

Everything we do is evangelistic, for good, or for ill. That was the reason for Christ’s exhortation in Matt. 5. He wants us to affect change in a manner that is consistent with His holiness, and in a manner that, hopefully, will produce the desired effects. Evangelism is not evangelism unless sin is confronted. Sin is an affront to a Holy God, and we, as God’s people, will always seek to defeat sin, whether individually, within the church, or within our society. And, if that battle means the church must organize itself in ways that are designed to influence the legislative process for the good of the church, and the citizens of a country (e.g. Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, Right to Life, etc.) then so be it.

a_simple_bloggTRotter said...

Stephen wrote:

"...the church cannot speak out against legislation that will ruin not only the country, but the church as well,"


I am very new to this thread, but could I please ask for what you mean here?

a_simple_bloggTRotter said...

Sorry, what I am asking is what is it that you think he is saying.

My question was not clear.

Stephen Wilson said...

Now as far as Phil, he wrote:


“But I do understand why someone already devoted to evangelical political activism—someone who genuinely thinks the lostness of our culture is epitomized in certain legislative issues—wouldn't want to admit that.”

If that’s directed at me, that’s a cheap shot. You know squat about what I am involved in, and even less about what I believe with regards to the lostness of the culture. I wasn't angry before, but that kind of snark put me over the edge.

I have presented my argument in opposition the Phil's argument that the church should not organize to affect change in society, i.e., political change. I have a lot of other things I could say, but I have a lot of work I need to do - so, I leave you all with the following article. If after reading this you still think we can wipe our hands of political involvement, then so be it.

ROBERT MUGABE REMINDS US OF IMPORTANT PRINCIPLES
By Leon H Wolf Posted in Contra Tyrannum

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - Police detained opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday after his convoy was stopped at a roadblock while campaigning ahead of the presidential runoff election set for later this month, his spokesman said.
Tsvangirai and a group of about 14 party officials were being detained at a police station in Lupane, north of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second- largest city, spokesman George Sibotshiwe said.
No charges have been filed, Sibotshiwe said, and no comment from police was immediately available.

People in America often get the idea that what the government does is mostly irrelevant to their daily lives. The government is perceived as something that is far away and unimportant, and of far less importance than many other things in their daily lives. Recent events in Zimbabwe and throughout Africa demonstrate that this is a pleasant fiction enabled by the fact that we have never had a true and successful tyrant take charge in America.
Everyone by now knows the litany of ills that plagues the continent of Africa: disease, famine, war, homelessness, and corruption. The miseries of that continent have led many a well-meaning individual and politician to make impassioned pleas for the United States to offer aid in whatever form possible to the people of Africa. U2 frontman Bono has been a rare purveyor of insight and common sense amidst this clamor for help. You see, Bono understands that the number one problem facing Africa right now is not poverty, or famine, or even disease, but governmental corruption.
The last century in this country has established that virtually every climate can be made comfortably habitable for human beings, given a stable and reasonably clean system of government that is dedicated to either building or fostering the development of basic infrastructure that reaches all of its citizens. The last century in Africa has demonstrated that goverments are equally capable of deliberately keeping their populations in poverty and squalor so as to prevent the very possibility of their ouster from power. These governments have furthermore pilfered billions of dollars of aid destined for their people to corruptly enhance their own creature comforts at the expense of the lives and welfare of their citizens.
Ladies and gentlemen, it matters who's running the government. Government corruption isn't just a scandalous news story, it's theft of the country's resources as a whole. And government that deliberately fosters dependence and poverty will make its population miserable, compared to the government that focuses on the construction of necessary infrastructure, and the protection of private property that is necessary for the creation of an economy, jobs, and wealth.

One Salient Oversight said...

The church should spend its time focusing outwards in evangelism and focusing inwards towards personal godliness. Both require the Gospel and the preached Word of God used by the Holy Spirit to regenerate us and make us more like Christ.

Christians should be thankful to God for any and every increase in worldly standards of living that occur through the political process - while also remembering the limitations of this process.

Christians should also not be enamoured by the extremes of worldly philosophies like Marxism, Libertarianism or even "hands-off" small government ideals.

Christians, as involved citizens, should aim to support the best solution. If that "solution" requires greater government involvement, or less government involvement, then it should be supported. Yet any support of such worldly measures should be tempered by the priority of the Gospel and living Godly lives.

In practical terms, it means that as a Christian in church, the focus of the church should be in evangelism and in personal godliness. Christians in church should also support any political measures that lead to a positive outcome in society (while realising that other Christians may disagree with each other in how these are to be achieved).

Frank Turk said...

Oh brother. Here we go. Stephen Wilson said:

[QUOTE]
I never said the power of God was limited. I said the “power of the Gospel is limited in its scope,” i.e., it is effective for whomever believes, but limited in its scope in that not everyone will believe. You grossly mischaracterized my argument. I Howard Marshall in discussing Paul’s teaching in Romans 9 concerning the limits of the gospel’s effects said, “Second, he stresses how vital it is that the gospel be preached so as to give people the opportunity to believe. Faith comes as a consequence of hearing the message, but it is possible to hear and not to believe.” (Marshall, New Testament Theology, p. 325. Emphasis mine).
[/QUOTE]


Yes, your meaning is transparently clear: we cannot hope that the Gospel will save enough men to make a difference in this world, so the church has to “affect” the government. Because the Gospel will not save all men, the church has to get into the government business to [insert intended action word here] the unsaved.

That, Stephen, is pessimism about the power of the Gospel. Marshall’s quote cannot be leveraged into that kind of pessimism. No question: All people will not be saved. But that does not mean that the church then must work for civil solutions to the problem the Gospel was intended to solve. The problem of lawless men is a governmental problem; the problem of sinful men, who by that cause are lawless, which is a theological description of the problem at hand, is the church’s problem for which the Gospel is the only solution.

[QUOTE]
Frank said, "And in that, Paul puts confidence in the Gospel as the only hope for mankind --which is a very different view than the one you have phrased here."

As I pointed out above, you mischaracterized my argument. You are letting your emotions get the better of you, as you do below.
[/QUOTE]


Not at all – on either count. Your argument is that because all men will not be saved, it is the church’s duty to then “affect” government in order to [insert intended action word here] them.

The only right way – and Biblically-supported way – for the church to “affect” government -- especially in a democracy -- is by preaching the Gospel and saving those whom God will call. For the church to say that because the Gospel will not save all men, the church is then tasked to punish (or seek the punishment of) lawless men falls in a category I have lately applied to Steve Camp and will refrain from applying to you for the sake of decorum. The commission of the church is to preaching the Gospel, and make disciples – not “and then make sure all who don’t repent get punished”.

[QUOTE]
Frank said, "WOW. Not to channel Doug Pagitt here, but WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW. I'd like to see any passage in the NT which you think instructs the church to "effect" the government in the way you mean here. I speak in moralist, human terms, not in terms of the actual morality of the NT. Hypothetically."

I meant “affect” not “effect.”
[/QUOTE]


That doesn’t improve your position one iota – not one jot or tittle. Of course you didn’t mean “set one up one of their own, a la theonomy or medieval Rome”. You meant “coerce or co-opt whatever government there is to do what the church either will not [insert intended action word here], or what it cannot do because the Gospel is not [insert intended adjective here] enough to reach all people.

I know what you meant. It makes your view of the Gospel worse, not better – because it says plainly that the government ought to do something for the church which the Gospel and God will not.

[QUOTE]
Calm down Frank, hysterics will get us nowhere. You, and Phil, have a bad habit of overreacting when someone posts an argument you don’t agree with, especially with those in which you have some sort of emotional attachment. A case in point is your use of “clown.” If you don’t like an argument, you say, “I’m gonna clown you,” or “If you were on my site, I’d clown you.” What is that, Frank? Sounds like something you would hear on a postmo site. I’ve read a lot of your material, you are a very funny, and bright guy, you don’t need to resort to childish name-calling.
[/QUOTE]


Which continues to advance your argument backwards. There has been no hint of that so far – only the challenge to substantiate your frankly-unsupportable claim with some reference to Scripture. It’s your view which is at bey here – and at some point you need to try to do more than call Phil and I bad people for calling your bluff and bluster.

[QUOTE]
So, you would like to see a passage in which the church is to affect the government in the way I stated. Ok, how about more than one? Matt. 5: 13-16, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” In both cases the implication is the same, we believers, the church, the corporate body of Christ, are to be like salt (providing flavor and acting as a preservative in arresting decay) as well as light (shining the light of God’s purity, truth, and knowledge in a world of darkness) in the world. The “world” means everything (including the government).
[/QUOTE]


My first reaction to this example is, “if I exchanged the word ‘government’ in your ‘exegesis’ with the phrase ‘pornography industry’, would you own it?” Because surely, the porn industry is part of the world, isn’t it?

Of course you would disown that because the church ought to have nothing to do with the porn industry. It should seek to save the people in it, but it cannot “redeem” it in any way. But worse still for the point you are trying to make, Matthew 5 is not talking about the corporate church but the actions of the redeemed. You know: an individual believer could rightly be an iron smith or a grocer – but for the church to then seek to become a foundry and a retail chain because Christians can be these things is an abandonment of its singular call.

Mt 5 is about the believer acting as if he understands the Covenant of God and not about whether the church has a secondary mission.

[QUOTE]
Ministers of God are called “the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14), and are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life (Phil 2:15-16), and being “sons of the light” (Lk. 16:8). Thus, to be both salt and light the church must be separate from the world’s darkness, but at the same time it must mingle itself with the unsavory in order to produce the kind of change it was meant to produce, without becoming tasteless or uninteresting.
[/QUOTE]


Which has exactly zero to do with the commission of the church.

[QUOTE]
I Cor. 2: 13-15, the key portion; “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things.” That includes the government and its policies. Therefore, to speak out publicly about political matters with the goal of affecting change is biblically acceptable. See also, I Cor. 10: 31, and “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.” (Titus 3: 1). That’s directed to the church in Corinth by the way.
[/QUOTE]


Holy. Christmas.

If there is anything in evidence in 1 Cor, it is that Paul is admonishing those believers in Corinth that they ought to be able to solve their own problems inside the church, particularly when it comes to disagreements and other judgments. So to take 1 Cor 2 and turn it into a call to “affect” government, um, overlooks Paul’s criticism to these same people in 1 Cor 6 that bringing squabbles inside the church to those who are outside the church in government is wrong.

Paul hasn’t here called the church at Corinth to “affect” government: he has called them to seek the wisdom which is in the Gospel, which is a spiritual truth and not a social or political truth which exalts anyone.

[QUOTE]
Finally, the book of Psalms provides a very good warning as to the foolishness of not being involved in political issues:

“The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored by men” (Ps. 12: 8)
[/QUOTE]


Let me say that your exegesis is at least consistent. Where is the implication here that a church full of gentiles ought to then “affect” government in order to end the strutting of the wicked? Except by bringing it to this text, you cannot find it.

[QUOTE]
You and Phil seem to think that the Bible creates a distinction between church ministry and individual ministry. You claim individual Christians are permitted to be involved in government, to vote, to volunteer for whatever political candidate they wish. But, the church is given no such permission. The church is not to organize, or be involved politically to affect change, the church cannot speak out against legislation that will ruin not only the country, but the church as well, the church is to proclaim the gospel, and anything else is a waste of its time and resources. That’s your argument, right?
[/QUOTE]


Yep. That’s my affirmation. Because everything else is hay, stubble and straw.

[QUOTE]
My argument is that the goal of all Christian involvement/ministry/agenda is to effect (def. “success in bringing about a change in somebody or something, or the ability to achieve this”) change in our society, whether corporately or individually. They are one and the same, and you guys want to separate them.
[/QUOTE]


So it would be OK, for example, to change the worship service over to a class on woodworking for the sake of the interests and gifting of those who were attending, right? Because the agenda of the individuals equals the agenda of the church.

Think about that. The ultimate example of what the “agenda” of the church is in worship -- and it’s a place where we give up our individual biases and faults and apparent good things, too, in order to show we are united in Christ and not merely for some external agenda. Talk about 1 Corinthians.

It is clearly not OK to subvert worship to expressions of individualism. Why would it be right to change the other aspects of the church into expressions of our individualism – particularly our engagement with the world and its cultures?

[QUOTE]
Everything we do is evangelistic, for good, or for ill. That was the reason for Christ’s exhortation in Matt. 5. He wants us to affect change in a manner that is consistent with His holiness, and in a manner that, hopefully, will produce the desired effects. Evangelism is not evangelism unless sin is confronted. Sin is an affront to a Holy God, and we, as God’s people, will always seek to defeat sin, whether individually, within the church, or within our society. And, if that battle means the church must organize itself in ways that are designed to influence the legislative process for the good of the church, and the citizens of a country (e.g. Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, Right to Life, etc.) then so be it.
[/QUOTE]


I think the irony of your flourish here is that you can’t find this kind of language in the NT. God hasn’t called us to “influence” anybody: God has called us to declare a message of forgiveness for repentance based on the work of the cross of Christ. Nothing else in all of creation or above creation can do that work. Seeking to make men who hate God into people who are somehow do-gooders who still hate God is a pointless, and ultimately cruel, endeavor.

Reconsider it.

Stephen Wilson said...

Frank Turk said, Yes, your meaning is transparently clear: we cannot hope that the Gospel will save enough men to make a difference in this world, so the church has to “affect” the government.

You know what, do me a favor and stop lying about what I said by putting your words in my mouth. I challenge anyone who has been reading this blog to look at what I wrote and find anything even remotely resembling this outrageous statement.

Frank, you obviously have some pretty serious anger issues my brother. Proverbs says “A hot tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel” (Prov. 15:18). It also says, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered” (Prov. 22:24). Oh, by the way, if anyone reading this is curious about what I mean about his anger issues, check this out from May 7 2008 in response to a commenter who said nothing that would justify this kind of rebuke, “TUAD:__Shut up, dude. You're a trouble-maker and an instigator.__Honestly, your attempts to get cross-blog animosities to a fever pitch have worn me out. SHut up already.” Go look and see what the guy said, or has ever said. I have read TUAD's posts on other blogs, he does have strong opinions concerning some things, but he is always respectful.

Therefore, even though I would love to continue to argue my position, you sir demonstrate you have no respect for me, or my arguments. All that would be accomplished is a sort of “Pee Wee Herman” back and forth, “I know you are but what am I” or “You said this, no I didn’t, yes you did, no I didn’t, yes you did…” on an on it would go. No thanks, I’ll pass.

However, if you are serious about continuing this debate, and willing to have a legitimate, adult, irenic conversation regarding this issue feel free to send me an e-mail (steviej49@yahoo.com) and we can continue this off line. Otherwise, have a nice day.

Frank Turk said...

What I don't respect is infantile name-calling which fails to engage objections to one's points.

Your problem right now is that you have said plainly that the Gospel is not enough for lost men -- some part of them (few, some, many, most) will not believe it because of the fact of God's election. Because of that, the church (you reason) must "affect" (influence, coerce, engage in order to change) the government for the sake of [insert action word here, ending in "-ing"] lawless men.

That is perhaps the worst excuse for churches engaging in political activism that has been floated at this blog. And if it is not your reasoning, clear it up by explaining where I have "lied".

Phil Johnson said...

Stephen Wilson: You and Phil seem to think that the Bible creates a distinction between church ministry and individual ministry. You claim individual Christians are permitted to be involved in government, to vote, to volunteer for whatever political candidate they wish. But, the church is given no such permission. The church is not to organize, or be involved politically to affect change, the church cannot speak out against legislation that will ruin not only the country, but the church as well, the church is to proclaim the gospel, and anything else is a waste of its time and resources. That’s your argument, right?

Not at all.

The distinction I have been making is between Christ and Caesar. The church isn't Caesar and isn't called to take that role. Individual Christians, however, can and always have worked in Caesar's household, served in his armies, and fulfilled all kinds of governmental tasks in his service. All legitimate, but not the calling of the body of Christ as a body. This is by no means a complex or arcane argument, and the distinction is one made repeatedly by the Word of God.

Apply your argument to the use of the sword, and perhaps you can see the distinction more clearly. Scripture clearly teaches that when a duly-appointed agent of Caesar employs the sword (which is a metonym for the use of force) to punish or control evildoers, he is acting as a minister of God for good (Romans 13).

If you were therefore to conclude that the church is also authorized to employ the sword against evildoers ("excommunicating" heretics by auto da fe), you would be seriously in error.

But I've already made all those points, plus I dealt at length with the idea of "salt and light," showing why that passage is not a mandate for the church to be politically active. I thought you said you read all those prior articles. If so, why don't you interact with what I have alread written, instead of acting as if you think I've never said those things? It would sure save us both a lot of time.

Mike Riccardi said...

My Comment

Phil Johnson said...

I guesss I should have read further in the thread before replying to that earlier snippet.

Stephen Wilson: If that’s directed at me, that’s a cheap shot. You know squat about what I am involved in, and even less about what I believe with regards to the lostness of the culture. I wasn't angry before, but that kind of snark put me over the edge.

1. It wasn't particularly directed at you.
2. It wasn't meant as snark.
3. It wasn't a cheap shot. The truth I was trying to point out is self-evident, I think. (If you don't believe me, review the comment-threads this series has unleashed.)

It was an observation about the difficulties of weaning today's evangelicals off politics, after they have been schooled for almost 30 years to think if we lose in the political arena, we'll automatically lose the culture—when the real truth is that if we don't spend more energies and resources on evangelism, we'll lose the only ability we have to influence the culture, and find ourselves marginalized in the one arena where we have a legitimate right to speak with authority.

(That may have already happened, but few have noticed, because Christian radio talk-show hosts are too busy jousting with Hillary Clinton and getting angry at Arianan Huffington.)

Speaking of which, I'm sorry you got angry, but I see from your remarks to Frank above that you know better. I wasn't trying to tweak you, tho.

Regarding the disparate answers Frank and I gave to your comment, viz.—

Stephen Wilson: You and Phil seem to think that the Bible creates a distinction between church ministry and individual ministry. You claim individual Christians are permitted to be involved in government, to vote, to volunteer for whatever political candidate they wish. But, the church is given no such permission. The church is not to organize, or be involved politically to affect change, the church cannot speak out against legislation that will ruin not only the country, but the church as well, the church is to proclaim the gospel, and anything else is a waste of its time and resources. That’s your argument, right?

My "not at all" was directed at your first sentence, as you'll see by reading my full answer. Frank's "Yep" was a response to the rest. We do agree with one another on this. But I just wanted to make sure you understand that the biblical distinction on which our position hinges is a distinction between Christ and Caesar (a prominent distinction in the NT), and not some artificial wall we're trying to erect between the church and her members.

OK?

Now drink some iced tea.

Stephen Wilson said...

Frank Turk –

Frank: “What I don't respect is infantile name-calling which fails to engage objections to one's points.”

Me: What on God’s green earth are you talking about? Where did I call you a name? I said you have anger issues, that’s an observation, not name calling. The outburst you had with TUAD is just one, of many, examples of your going off on people. I stand by what I said, you are a hot head that doesn’t argue, just rants. As you do next.

Frank: “Your problem right now is that you have said plainly that the Gospel is not enough for lost men -- some part of them (few, some, many, most) will not believe it because of the fact of God's election. Because of that, the church (you reason) must "affect" (influence, coerce, engage in order to change) the government for the sake of [insert action word here, ending in "-ing"] lawless men.
That is perhaps the worst excuse for churches engaging in political activism that has been floated at this blog. And if it is not your reasoning, clear it up by explaining where I have "lied".”

OK, you want it, you got it. See the following post.

Stephen Wilson said...

Frank Turk: Because the Gospel will not save all men, the church has to get into the government business to [insert intended action word here] the unsaved.

Me: Right, I am not a universalist, the gospel is limited in it’s scope, not its power. Yeah, to produce a government that is of the people, by the people, for the people. I like that, I want to preserve it. If you don’t think that is a worthy effort, then continue to do what you are already doing, nothing.

Frank: That, Stephen, is pessimism about the power of the Gospel.

Me: Stop putting words in my mouth, and stop lying about my position!

Frank: Marshall’s quote cannot be leveraged into that kind of pessimism.

Me: You’re the one doing the leveraging, not me. I quoted the man verbatim, you don’t like the quote, too bad.

Frank: No question: All people will not be saved.

Me: Wowwww!! Then the Gospel does not have the power to save?? Who’d a thunk it! See, two can play your game.

Frank: But that does not mean that the church then must work for civil solutions to the problem the Gospel was intended to solve.

Me: Really? Then the church better get out of the feeding, clothing, medicine business in a hurry since that is a “civil problem the Gospel was not intended to solve.” Poverty, hunger, sickness, joblessness are all problems that government has been responsible for meeting. You have no problem with the government attempting to resolve those problems, nor with the church to join with government in meeting those problems. But when it comes to the sin in society, which poses a greater threat, you say “government take over, this is not the churches business.” You think I mischaracterized your statement? OK, let me quote you, “The problem of lawless men is a governmental problem.”

Frank: The problem of sinful men, who by that cause are lawless, which is a theological description of the problem at hand, is the church’s problem for which the Gospel is the only solution.

Me: I’m sorry, that statement, taken in the context in which you argue, that lawless men is the government’s problem, makes absolutely no sense.

And in that, Paul puts confidence in the Gospel as the only hope for mankind --which is a very different view than the one you have phrased here."__As I pointed out above, you mischaracterized my argument. You are letting your emotions get the better of you, as you do below.

Frank: Not at all – on either count. Your argument is that because all men will not be saved, it is the church’s duty to then “affect” government in order to [insert intended action word here] them.

Me: Sorry, that is not my argument at all. Are you sure you actually read what I said? My argument has nothing to do with who’s saved, and who’s not. That’s your little hobby horse, not mine.

Frank: The only right way – and Biblically-supported way – for the church to “affect” government -- especially in a democracy -- is by preaching the Gospel and saving those whom God will call.

Me: You can’t be serious! Do you realize what you just said? The only way for the church, God’s people, to affect government is by preaching the Gospel, that’s what you said, right? Wow, well let’s close down those soup kitchens, pregnancy crisis centers, emergency medical clinics, church basketball leagues, gang crisis centers, voter guides, political action committees, etc. etc. The Gospel is preached by our lives and our words. Sometimes the words come first, and sometimes the lives, but the Gospel is not confined inside the church walls.

Frank: For the church to say that because the Gospel will not save all men (as you yourself said), the church is then tasked to punish (or seek the punishment of) lawless men falls in a category I have lately applied to Steve Camp and will refrain from applying to you for the sake of decorum.

Me: Leave Steve Camp out of this, this is between you and me.

Frank: The commission of the church is to preaching the Gospel, and make disciples – not “and then make sure all who don’t repent get punished.”

Me: I want you to quote, verbatim, anything I have written that even hints at the suggestioin that the church’s task is to “punish lawless men.”

Frank: Of course you didn’t mean “set one up one of their own, a la theonomy or medieval Rome”. You meant “coerce or co-opt whatever government there is to do what the church either will not [insert intended action word here], or what it cannot do because the Gospel is not [insert intended adjective here] enough to reach all people. I know what you meant.

Me: I meant? I meant? Since when did you develop the gift of reading minds? Let’s get one thing straight right now, you know nothing of what I meant! If you took off your bias spectacles, and stopped trying to read into something that was not there, you might be able to ascertain what I meant.

Calm down Frank, hysterics will get us nowhere. You, and Phil, have a bad habit of overreacting when someone posts an argument you don’t agree with, especially with those in which you have some sort of emotional attachment. A case in point is your use of “clown.” If you don’t like an argument, you say, “I’m gonna clown you,” or “If you were on my site, I’d clown you.” What is that, Frank? Sounds like something you would hear on a postmo site. I’ve read a lot of your material, you are a very funny, and bright guy, you don’t need to resort to childish name-calling.

Frank: Which continues to advance your argument backwards. There has been no hint of that so far – [Oh, really? How about this, Frank said, "WOW. Not to channel Doug Pagitt here, but WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW] only the challenge to substantiate your frankly-unsupportable claim with some reference to Scripture. It’s your view which is at bey here – and at some point you need to try to do more than call Phil and I bad people for calling your bluff and bluster.

Me: Please provide the quote in which I call you and Phil, “bad people.” “Bluff and bluster”? Why, because I had the impertinence to challenge your position? Well, like you said in the beginning, here we go again! I did reference my argument with Scripture, plenty of Scripture, but you didn’t like the Scriptures I presented. That’s too bad, because they present a pretty solid argument for my case.

Frank: My first reaction to this example is, “if I exchanged the word ‘government’ in your ‘exegesis’ with the phrase ‘pornography industry’, would you own it?”

Me: Porn industry? What has that got to do with the government, or anything else we have been discussing for that matter? But to not side step your challenge, my answer would be absolutely!! The church is to be salt and light in exposing the corruption within the porn industry. The porn industry was in the world the last time I checked.

Frank: Because surely, the porn industry is part of the world, isn’t it? Of course you would disown that (there he goes again, reading minds) because the church ought to have nothing to do with the porn industry. It should seek to save the people in it, but it cannot “redeem” it in any way.

Me: Was that last sentence supposed to be yours, or mine? You jump around so much it’s hard to tell. I think the church should have a lot to do with the porn industry – to shut it down! The porn industry will continue until Jesus returns, but that doesn’t mean we lie down and let it flourish. We work to stop it, and we work to bring those people involved with it to Christ.

Frank: But worse still for the point you are trying to make, Matthew 5 is not talking about the corporate church but the actions of the redeemed.

Me: Hold everything, time out! Please explain to me how the corporate church and the redeemed are two separate things. I have read through the Bible, many times, and have preached and taught the Bible, and this is the first time I have heard someone say that the redeemed in Matt. 5 is not describing the church, the members of the Body of Christ.

Frank: Mt 5 is about the believer acting as if he understands the Covenant of God and not about whether the church has a secondary mission.

Me: Please name me one commentary that interprets Matt. 5 in the way you just indicated.

Ministers of God are called “the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14), and are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life (Phil 2:15-16), and being “sons of the light” (Lk. 16:8). Thus, to be both salt and light the church must be separate from the world’s darkness, but at the same time it must mingle itself with the unsavory in order to produce the kind of change it was meant to produce, without becoming tasteless or uninteresting.

Frank: Which has exactly zero to do with the commission of the church.

Me: Really? Would you like to tell our missionaries to Zimbabwe that? Or, how about Poland, or China, or maybe Laos? They are there to provide salt and light in cultures that have been shrouded in darkness for decades, some of them for centuries. Is the missionary who tries to change the polygamous culture of a people group wrong in your opinion. Should we have continued to ignore the savagery of the Auca tribes, after all our commission is only to preach the gospel, right?

I Cor. 2: 13-15, the key portion; “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things.” That includes the government and its policies. Therefore, to speak out publicly about political matters with the goal of affecting change is biblically acceptable. See also, I Cor. 10: 31, and “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.” (Titus 3: 1). That’s directed to the church in Corinth by the way._

Frank: Holy. Christmas.__If there is anything in evidence in 1 Cor, it is that Paul is admonishing those believers in Corinth that they ought to be able to solve their own problems inside the church, particularly when it comes to disagreements and other judgments.

Me: Oh, really? Would you like to tell John MacArthur that? After all he spent quite a number of years in a SECULAR court seeking justice in protecting himself from a lawsuit over the suicidal death of one of his parishioners. Why didn’t he solve the problem inside the church? Oh, you say, but the father of the boy was an unbeliever, so it was ok to take this to an outside court. I don’t know whether he was a believer or unbeliever, and neither do you. By the way, do you condemn the members of the Episcopal Church who are attempting, through our court system, to break away from the North American diocese over homosexual priests? If I follow your argument, you would condemn them.

Frank: Paul hasn’t here called the church at Corinth to “affect” government: he has called them to seek the wisdom which is in the Gospel, which is a spiritual truth and not a social or political truth which exalts anyone.

Me: Please show me the distinction, from the Bible, between “spiritual truth” and “social and political truth.”

Finally, the book of Psalms provides a very good warning as to the foolishness of not being involved in political issues:__“The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored by men” (Ps. 12: 8)_

Frank: Let me say that your exegesis is at least consistent. Where is the implication here that a church full of gentiles ought to then “affect” government in order to end the strutting of the wicked? Except by bringing it to this text, you cannot find it.

Me: Wrong again! The church is full of CHRISTIANS, not Gentiles, unless you don’t believe that Jews can be saved. The church, according to the passages I have already presented, is to be be a positive influence, through involvement with helping to create a government that promotes the good and punishes the evil.

You and Phil seem to think that the Bible creates a distinction between church ministry and individual ministry. You claim individual Christians are permitted to be involved in government, to vote, to volunteer for whatever political candidate they wish. But, the church is given no such permission. The church is not to organize, or be involved politically to affect change, the church cannot speak out against legislation that will ruin not only the country, but the church as well, the church is to proclaim the gospel, and anything else is a waste of its time and resources. That’s your argument, right?

Frank: Yep. That’s my affirmation. Because everything else is hay, stubble and straw.

Me: Yup, you and Phil believe that the church should keep its nose out of the world’s business unless it is to preach the Gospel, because everything else is hay and stubble. Of course, there is a teeny little problem - preaching the Gospel is putting our nose in the world’s business! Preaching the Gospel means warning people of God’s wrath. How many of the unsaved are going to line up to praise that? Preaching the Gospel is proclaiming God’s hatred for sin, and sinners (Ps. 5:5). That should be real popular down at the local bar. Are you honestly going to suggest that men such as Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, James Dobson, Francis Schaeffer, and many others, are going to have all the work they have done for the promotion of a better society, that certainly benefits the church and its ministry, to go up in flames?

Frank: So it would be OK, for example, to change the worship service over to a class on woodworking for the sake of the interests and gifting of those who were attending, right? Because the agenda of the individuals equals the agenda of the church.

Me: Never said that, nor implied that. “The agenda of the individuals equal the agenda of the church.” What part of I Cor. 12, Rom. 12, and Eph. 4, don’t you get? The church is a body, each individual is incorporated into the church at the moment of salvation for the benefit of the corporate body. I have members of my local church ministering in Kenya, India, Cameroon, Russia, and many other nations, and you know what, what they do affects me and our church. They represent us over there, there agenda is our agenda.

Frank: God hasn’t called us to “influence” anybody –

Me: Are you joking? You’re playing with me here, right? I mean you cannot possibly be serious about that statement. So, Jesus’ Great Commission was for us to go out into the world and influence…NOBODY?? As Vic the Brick would say, "Yikes!"

Frank Turk said...

I have a response to Stephen written, but Blogger thinks it has PHP embedded in it.

I'm working on it. Will be back later.

Frank Turk said...

As we read this, let’s remember that Stephen’s claim is that I am the one telling “lies” about his opinions. The bold text is his.

Frank Turk-- Because the Gospel will not save all men, the church has to get into the government business to -insert intended action word here- the unsaved.

Me-- Right, I am not a universalist, the gospel is limited in it’s scope, not its power. Yeah, to produce a government that is of the people, by the people, for the people. I like that, I want to preserve it. If you don’t think that is a worthy effort, then continue to do what you are already doing, nothing.


Well, Stephen opens up a new problem by quoting Abe Lincoln rather than the constitution regarding what kind of nation we have, but we’ll let that go for now.

It seems to me that his core reasoning, however, remains in tact: since the Gospel doesn’t save all men, the church has to do other things besides preach the Gospel to deal with the people who are not saved. The church shouldn't just rely on the power of the Gospel, but also seek out the power (as Phil noted) of the sword.

Frank-- That, Stephen, is pessimism about the power of the Gospel.

Me-- Stop putting words in my mouth, and stop lying about my position!


You affirm that, but you haven’t demonstrated that you mean something else. If you don’t mean, “the power of the Gospel, limited in scope as it is to the elect only, will not save enough men to affect government”, then you have pessimism about what will happen in the preaching of God’s word.

The ultimate form of optimism about the Gospel is universalism – so optimism isn’t always a virtue. But if everyone’s not going to be saved, we have a handful of choices about the scope of the Gospel: few will be saved; some will be saved; many will be saved; most will be saved.

It is frankly endemic, Stephen, that people who advocate what you advocate fall someplace between “few” and “some” – because they misunderstand the purpose in the election of God. And it seems to me – completely IMO, though I admit I am influenced by Mark Knoll on this matter – that this view of God’s election causes people to put more faith in what happens in the election of government officials than it does in the declaration of the Gospel of Christ.

Your view of the scope of election causes you to believe that the Gospel will not work on most people. I have no idea how often you participate in evangelism, but I wonder what you expect when you talk to the lost about the cross of Christ. Do you expect that God will be faithful and His word will not return void, or do you expect that people will just not listen? I ask not to say you are a bad man, but to get you to think about what it means to have a powerful God dispensing a powerful Gospel.

That’s what that phrase means: pessimism about how many people will get saved when the Gospel is preached to them. Optimism means that many will be saved, and that their salvation will do more than passing a law against idolatry will.

Frank-- Marshall’s quote cannot be leveraged into that kind of pessimism.

Me-- You’re the one doing the leveraging, not me. I quoted the man verbatim, you don’t like the quote, too bad.


-sigh-

You’re the one who brought him up to underscore the limits of the scope of the Gospel. You’re the one trying to make him say, “only a few people will receive the Gospel, so our efforts are at least as well spent influencing government.”

That’s what leveraging the quote means, Stephen-- trying to get a broad statement about some topic to mean something more narrow and off-topic from its original context.

Frank-- No question-- All people will not be saved.

Me-- Wowwww!! Then the Gospel does not have the power to save?? Who’d a thunk it! See, two can play your game.


The crazy thing, Stephen, was that this was the place where you should see that I was agreeing with the concept you brought to the table to show that you have misapplied it.

When you attack the places I have agreed with you, I have to wonder-- what’s your objective in engaging me here?

Frank-- But that does not mean that the church then must work for civil solutions to the problem the Gospel was intended to solve.

Me-- Really? Then the church better get out of the feeding, clothing, medicine business in a hurry since that is a “civil problem the Gospel was not intended to solve.” Poverty, hunger, sickness, joblessness are all problems that government has been responsible for meeting. You have no problem with the government attempting to resolve those problems, nor with the church to join with government in meeting those problems. But when it comes to the sin in society, which poses a greater threat, you say “government take over, this is not the churches business.” You think I mischaracterized your statement? OK, let me quote you, “The problem of lawless men is a governmental problem.”


You should read Marvin Olasky’s the Tragedy of American Compassion, which was just reissued by Crossway. And then re-read the sermon on the mount – because one of the really mind-boggling things about what you are saying here, Stephen, is that “affecting government” (which is never mentioned in the NT) is on-par with the actual moral consequences in the life of the believer which are actually commanded by the NT.

You can search the whole NT with a search engine, and you cannot find it anywhere commanding the believer to rock the vote.

Frank-- The problem of sinful men, who by that cause are lawless, which is a theological description of the problem at hand, is the church’s problem for which the Gospel is the only solution.

Me-- I’m sorry, that statement, taken in the context in which you argue, that lawless men is the government’s problem, makes absolutely no sense.

And in that, Paul puts confidence in the Gospel as the only hope for mankind --which is a very different view than the one you have phrased here."__As I pointed out above, you mischaracterized my argument. You are letting your emotions get the better of you, as you do below.


LOL. Wow, that’s funny. You don’t understand the difference between thinking about lawlessness without any explanation of the root cause, and thinking about lawlessness with its cause plainly in view?

I’m not sure you have thought very hard about this issue, Stephen. The difference is that one says, “we should punish lawlessness in all its forms because we cannot stop it,” and the other says, “the only way to overcome lawlessness is to make new men out of lawless men by the power of God.”

That latter one? That’s the Gospel. Save lawless men by the power of God and not by the power of me or me and all my friends.

Frank-- Not at all – on either count. Your argument is that because all men will not be saved, it is the church’s duty to then “affect” government in order to -insert intended action word here- them.

Me-- Sorry, that is not my argument at all. Are you sure you actually read what I said? My argument has nothing to do with who’s saved, and who’s not. That’s your little hobby horse, not mine.


This would have been a great place, then, to clear up what you actually mean rather that toss off trite phrases like “that’s your hobby horse.”

If your point is not about who is and is not (and frankly, who will be and will not be) saved, then why did you drag election into the conversation?

Frank-- The only right way – and Biblically-supported way – for the church to “affect” government -- especially in a democracy -- is by preaching the Gospel and saving those whom God will call.

Me-- You can’t be serious! Do you realize what you just said? The only way for the church, God’s people, to affect government is by preaching the Gospel, that’s what you said, right? Wow, well let’s close down those soup kitchens, pregnancy crisis centers, emergency medical clinics, church basketball leagues, gang crisis centers, voter guides, political action committees, etc. etc. The Gospel is preached by our lives and our words. Sometimes the words come first, and sometimes the lives, but the Gospel is not confined inside the church walls.


The Gospel is only preached by words, dude. The effects of the Gospel are the things listed in the sermon on the mount – they come after the Gospel. Nobody in the NT ever says that the Gospel can be preached without words – because it is inherently a declaration of truth and good news. It requires words. That’s why we have a Bible – why God gave us Scripture and not a picture book.

That you do not know this or know how to apply this is probably another reason why you think government is such a great solution which the church should use.

Frank-- For the church to say that because the Gospel will not save all men (as you yourself said), the church is then tasked to punish (or seek the punishment of) lawless men falls in a category I have lately applied to Steve Camp and will refrain from applying to you for the sake of decorum.

Me-- Leave Steve Camp out of this, this is between you and me.


Nope. In fact, because you mention it, Steve Camp. Steve Camp. Steve Camp.

That’s for Steve’s benefit, btw. It doesn’t add anything to this exchange. Thanks, however, for bringing it up; you made my day.

Frank-- The commission of the church is to preaching the Gospel, and make disciples – not “and then make sure all who don’t repent get punished.”

Me-- I want you to quote, verbatim, anything I have written that even hints at the suggestioin that the church’s task is to “punish lawless men.”


OK. You said:

-QUOTE-
What -those on the religious right- have said is that we must fight this in the arena of politics before it gets to the doors of the church. This is not an argument about who should be taxed in order to pay for pre-school education; this is an attack against our God, and us as His church.
-QUOTE-

I wonder-- what does it mean to have the government respond to attacks against the church? Are you advocating that those who are “attacking” the church need a government program which hands them a tract, or sends a preacher to their house, or are you advocating that the right response to these “attacks” is that the government should punish the evil-doers in order to protect the church?


Frank-- Of course you didn’t mean “set one up one of their own, a la theonomy or medieval Rome”. You meant “coerce or co-opt whatever government there is to do what the church either will not -insert intended action word here-, or what it cannot do because the Gospel is not -insert intended adjective here- enough to reach all people. I know what you meant.

Me-- I meant? I meant? Since when did you develop the gift of reading minds? Let’s get one thing straight right now, you know nothing of what I meant! If you took off your bias spectacles, and stopped trying to read into something that was not there, you might be able to ascertain what I meant.


Then I suggest nobody knows what you meant, and rather than rail on against what you didn’t mean, you should tell us what exactly you did mean.

Calm down Frank, hysterics will get us nowhere. You, and Phil, have a bad habit of overreacting when someone posts an argument you don’t agree with, especially with those in which you have some sort of emotional attachment. A case in point is your use of “clown.” If you don’t like an argument, you say, “I’m gonna clown you,” or “If you were on my site, I’d clown you.” What is that, Frank? Sounds like something you would hear on a postmo site. I’ve read a lot of your material, you are a very funny, and bright guy, you don’t need to resort to childish name-calling.

Frank-- Which continues to advance your argument backwards. There has been no hint of that so far – -Oh, really? How about this, Frank said, "WOW. Not to channel Doug Pagitt here, but WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW- only the challenge to substantiate your frankly-unsupportable claim with some reference to Scripture. It’s your view which is at bey here – and at some point you need to try to do more than call Phil and I bad people for calling your bluff and bluster.

Me-- Please provide the quote in which I call you and Phil, “bad people.” “Bluff and bluster”? Why, because I had the impertinence to challenge your position? Well, like you said in the beginning, here we go again! I did reference my argument with Scripture, plenty of Scripture, but you didn’t like the Scriptures I presented. That’s too bad, because they present a pretty solid argument for my case.


I suppose that your saying I have a “bad habit”, above, means I am a “great guy”. Or that the use of the clown at my blog makes me a “postmo”. And to say I have participated in “name-calling” will get me an invite to your family’s Thanksgiving celebration, I am sure.

Your implication is that I am a bad guy for clearly disagreeing with you – and the funny thing is that the only objective evidence you provide for that is that I have said, “WOW” to the worst of your affirmations.

I’ll leave whatever you said about Phil for Phil to untangle. If I added it here, you’d call it more emotional outbursts.

Frank-- My first reaction to this example is, “if I exchanged the word ‘government’ in your ‘exegesis’ with the phrase ‘pornography industry’, would you own it?”

Me-- Porn industry? What has that got to do with the government, or anything else we have been discussing for that matter? But to not side step your challenge, my answer would be absolutely!! The church is to be salt and light in exposing the corruption within the porn industry. The porn industry was in the world the last time I checked.

Frank-- Because surely, the porn industry is part of the world, isn’t it? Of course you would disown that (there he goes again, reading minds) because the church ought to have nothing to do with the porn industry. It should seek to save the people in it, but it cannot “redeem” it in any way.

Me-- Was that last sentence supposed to be yours, or mine? You jump around so much it’s hard to tell. I think the church should have a lot to do with the porn industry – to shut it down! The porn industry will continue until Jesus returns, but that doesn’t mean we lie down and let it flourish. We work to stop it, and we work to bring those people involved with it to Christ.


Let me clear up the confusion for you. You have interpreted a passage of Scripture which has no relevance to the discussion at hand to mean Christians must “affect” government in order to be good Christians. As the light of the world, we have to “affect” everything in the world, and the government is in the world.

The failing of that reasoning is exposed when we stick some other thing which is in the world into your argument, and I chose “the porn industry” because it makes the fault of your reasoning obvious. Christians should not be trying to redeem the porn industry-- it should be seeking to preach the Gospel to those in the porn industry in order to save them. I could have just as easily said “the post office”, but it would not be a stark enough contrast to make the point well.

There's no doubt that you would not want Christians in the porn industry -- because it is -obviously- a manifestation of the sin nature, and there's nothing good about it. We would agree on this. The problem is that if the "in the world" logic of your Mat 5 interpretation supports all the things in the world, you have to deal with all the things in the world and not just government.

Frank-- But worse still for the point you are trying to make, Matthew 5 is not talking about the corporate church but the actions of the redeemed.

Me-- Hold everything, time out! Please explain to me how the corporate church and the redeemed are two separate things. I have read through the Bible, many times, and have preached and taught the Bible, and this is the first time I have heard someone say that the redeemed in Matt. 5 is not describing the church, the members of the Body of Christ.


By your reasoning, Stephen, any group is always the sum of its parts – not a function of some common attribute, or the function of a commission which is greater than the sum of the parts.

The church is not merely the sum of its parts, and we thank God for that. The church is, first of all, established by God and not men – see the great commission or Acts 2. Second of all, it is established for God’s purpose and not ours – see 1Cor 1. Third, it is the place where our differences are overcome by Christ -- Eph 2.

In that, the church is not a place where we go to pool our resources for our personal gain or, frankly, protection. It is actually a place where we ought to be most vulnerable because we live as if our lives were bought for a price by our Lord and Savior.

The church, as God’s place where men are called out to Him, has church work to do. It must proclaim the Gospel. It must administer the ordinances. It must be the place where the believers are taught and rebuked.

That is church work. The rest is what we do after we have been claimed by church work, after we have received the Gospel and become at peace with God.

That is how we distinguish between the work of the church and the work of the members of the church – in exactly the same way we would distinguish between the work of any other organization and all the “other stuff” people “affected” by the organization do when they are not doing the organization’s work.

Frank-- Mt 5 is about the believer acting as if he understands the Covenant of God and not about whether the church has a secondary mission.

Me-- Please name me one commentary that interprets Matt. 5 in the way you just indicated.


Mike Horton just cited one this weekend on the White Horse Inn – I’ll go relisten to the podcast and get you the citation. It is a very common, reformed view of Mat 5 to see Christ as something called the "covenant messenger".

Ministers of God are called “the light of the world” (Mt. 5--14), and are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life (Phil 2--15-16), and being “sons of the light” (Lk. 16--8). Thus, to be both salt and light the church must be separate from the world’s darkness, but at the same time it must mingle itself with the unsavory in order to produce the kind of change it was meant to produce, without becoming tasteless or uninteresting.

Frank-- Which has exactly zero to do with the commission of the church.

Me-- Really? Would you like to tell our missionaries to Zimbabwe that? Or, how about Poland, or China, or maybe Laos? They are there to provide salt and light in cultures that have been shrouded in darkness for decades, some of them for centuries. Is the missionary who tries to change the polygamous culture of a people group wrong in your opinion. Should we have continued to ignore the savagery of the Auca tribes, after all our commission is only to preach the gospel, right?


I think you’re confused about what a missionary does. A consequence of saved people is the overcoming of their lost culture. The evidence of this is that we don’t send people into China as “Christian missionaries” who are seeking political action on the part of the Chinese government-- we send missionaries into China with Bibles to preach the word of God to change the hearts of men.

The church isn’t a political revolution machine-- it is beautiful feet.

I Cor. 2-- 13-15, the key portion; “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things.” That includes the government and its policies. Therefore, to speak out publicly about political matters with the goal of affecting change is biblically acceptable. See also, I Cor. 10-- 31, and “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.” (Titus 3-- 1). That’s directed to the church in Corinth by the way._

Frank-- Holy. Christmas.__If there is anything in evidence in 1 Cor, it is that Paul is admonishing those believers in Corinth that they ought to be able to solve their own problems inside the church, particularly when it comes to disagreements and other judgments.

Me-- Oh, really? Would you like to tell John MacArthur that? After all he spent quite a number of years in a SECULAR court seeking justice in protecting himself from a lawsuit over the suicidal death of one of his parishioners. Why didn’t he solve the problem inside the church? Oh, you say, but the father of the boy was an unbeliever, so it was ok to take this to an outside court. I don’t know whether he was a believer or unbeliever, and neither do you. By the way, do you condemn the members of the Episcopal Church who are attempting, through our court system, to break away from the North American diocese over homosexual priests? If I follow your argument, you would condemn them.


-sigh again-

What you are saying now frankly makes no sense. If I get sued and I seek a lawyer to protect myself, you’re saying that’s the same thing as raising $1 million to pass a law against homosexual marriage?

In what way? My opinion is that the church ought to be able to settle these matters among believers without going to outside courts -- because that was Paul’s opinion. Your view is that the believer must seek to make the unbeliever in government think like a believer by the implementation of legislation. My view is that this will never work – and 1 Cor 2 says this explicitly.

Frank-- Paul hasn’t here called the church at Corinth to “affect” government-- he has called them to seek the wisdom which is in the Gospel, which is a spiritual truth and not a social or political truth which exalts anyone.

Me-- Please show me the distinction, from the Bible, between “spiritual truth” and “social and political truth.”


The distinction is in the comparison of 1Cor 2 and 1Cor 6. Paul says in 1Cor 6 that the outsider, the unbeliever, is not a better judge between believers than a believer inside the church is; 1 Cor 2 says that the wisdom of the faithful is only apprehended spiritually.

Any political solution to a problem is only a matter of how the sword is going to be wielded – how to force someone to do something. It doesn’t make someone wise or change their lawless nature to an obedient nature.

Other great examples of "spiritual truth" vs. "social or political truth" would be found in John 3 (the new birth), John 5 and 8 (seeing Jesus as Christ), and Romans 1 (vain reasoning vs. the testimony of creation).

Finally, the book of Psalms provides a very good warning as to the foolishness of not being involved in political issues--__“The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored by men” (Ps. 12-- 8)_

Frank-- Let me say that your exegesis is at least consistent. Where is the implication here that a church full of gentiles ought to then “affect” government in order to end the strutting of the wicked? Except by bringing it to this text, you cannot find it.

Me-- Wrong again! The church is full of CHRISTIANS, not Gentiles, unless you don’t believe that Jews can be saved. The church, according to the passages I have already presented, is to be be a positive influence, through involvement with helping to create a government that promotes the good and punishes the evil.


Again, all I can say is “wow”. Is there a difference between the nation of Israel and the United States of America? If -not-, then we need a king or a prophet and not a president. If there -is-, then we have to ask ourselves-- "What is the weapon we are explicitly called to use in the warfare of this world against powers of darkness?"

You and Phil seem to think that the Bible creates a distinction between church ministry and individual ministry. You claim individual Christians are permitted to be involved in government, to vote, to volunteer for whatever political candidate they wish. But, the church is given no such permission. The church is not to organize, or be involved politically to affect change, the church cannot speak out against legislation that will ruin not only the country, but the church as well, the church is to proclaim the gospel, and anything else is a waste of its time and resources. That’s your argument, right?

Frank-- Yep. That’s my affirmation. Because everything else is hay, stubble and straw.

Me-- Yup, you and Phil believe that the church should keep its nose out of the world’s business unless it is to preach the Gospel, because everything else is hay and stubble. Of course, there is a teeny little problem - preaching the Gospel is putting our nose in the world’s business! Preaching the Gospel means warning people of God’s wrath. How many of the unsaved are going to line up to praise that? Preaching the Gospel is proclaiming God’s hatred for sin, and sinners (Ps. 5--5). That should be real popular down at the local bar. Are you honestly going to suggest that men such as Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, James Dobson, Francis Schaeffer, and many others, are going to have all the work they have done for the promotion of a better society, that certainly benefits the church and its ministry, to go up in flames?


And yet again, wow. So we say, “preach the Gospel in order to save men,” and you interpret to mean “don’t preach the Gospel to save men”?

I can’t respond to that. I have no idea how to respond to that.

Frank-- So it would be OK, for example, to change the worship service over to a class on woodworking for the sake of the interests and gifting of those who were attending, right? Because the agenda of the individuals equals the agenda of the church.

Me-- Never said that, nor implied that. “The agenda of the individuals equal the agenda of the church.” What part of I Cor. 12, Rom. 12, and Eph. 4, don’t you get? The church is a body, each individual is incorporated into the church at the moment of salvation for the benefit of the corporate body. I have members of my local church ministering in Kenya, India, Cameroon, Russia, and many other nations, and you know what, what they do affects me and our church. They represent us over there, there agenda is our agenda.


The body is brought together for a purpose greater than the individuals. It is called out to work the individuals cannot accomplish by themselves. It has tasks which individuals cannot rightly do.

Your view of the church is that it’s just the sum of the parts. See what I said about that, above.

Frank-- God hasn’t called us to “influence” anybody –

Me-- Are you joking? You’re playing with me here, right? I mean you cannot possibly be serious about that statement. So, Jesus’ Great Commission was for us to go out into the world and influence…NOBODY?? As Vic the Brick would say, "Yikes!"


Yeah, finish my sentence and then respond to it. At some point, you have to encounter what I actually said, and not just mock incomplete phrases. You have here missed the difference between "influence" and "declare" in my original statement.

You get the last word, and then I’m closing this thread, Stephen.

Winslowlady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Winslowlady said...

Okay, I'm new to blogging, but I must respond-as a Christian and as a reader...Frank, I am amazed at the lack of Christian charity and understanding of how to debate in a way that honors and edifies the Lord Jesus Christ. I've been reading through this and just want to encourage ALL of us to let our speech be reflective of what's in our heart.

"Scorners delight in scorning," Prov. 1:22
"What is desirable in a man is his kindness," Prov. 19:22
"Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness," Prov. 16:21
"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bone," Prov. 16:24
"He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles," Prov. 21:23

Stephen Wilson said...

winslowlady - I couldn't agree with you more my sister.

I have been reading this blog for...oh...I'd say a year, maybe less, and I have been increasingly concerned with the tone of the site bloggers, esp. Frank Turk. Dan and Phil can get a little heated and say things that are unfair, but Frank you are over the top.

I have nothing more to say, you have so twisted my argument to the point that I no longer recognize it. You pull my words out of context, you pick and choose your spots rather than deal with the substance of my argument, then you apply to me what you yourself do constantly. Enough. I will let the folks on this site decide which of us has the strongest argument.
My point has always been, God can do anything He pleases, but it pleases Him to use us as His instruments to initiate change in government, nations, communities, individual lives, and churches. That's why we send missionaries, not because we don't believe the Gospel is powerful enough to change lives, but because the Gospel is communicated through our lives in such a way that our message will gather a hearing.

For everyone else, please involve yourself in politics as an individual/church - not to hate, not to browbeat people into submission and force our views on others, but to bring the light and salt of God's presence through us in the issues of our country. Right now it is our country, if we sit back and do nothing, it may not be. God Bless.

Stephen Wilson said...

Oh, one other thing, I'm sorry. I forgot this excellent point made by one of the site blogger on his website. Dan Phillips said this to one of his readers,

"Feburary 21, 2008: Ricky, first, to your question: "is it your view that a Christian can not vote for a Democrat and still be considered Christian? Or suspect at best? I am interested to know because that is the impression that I get from you and some of the other posters here."__I'm sorry if I've been in any way unclear. __Christians can do all sorts of idiotic things. They can lie, they can drink too much, they can go to lame churches and waste their time in playtime activities instead of pursuing God's priorities. Sad but true, Christians can be absolute fools. __So yes, Christians can vote Democratic and still be Christians. They can embrace the only one of the two political parties where their distinctive values as Christians are never welcome, are openly vilified and mocked and targeted for elimination. They can stand with the open and brazen mockers of God, enemies of God's values; the party that, if it had its way, would erase distinctively Christian involvement from the public square altogether. The party of abortion, the party of totalitarianism, the party of moral chaos, the party of theft and corruption and immorality, the party of opposition to the values on which our nation was founded. And they can even vote for the candidate who is more virulently pro-babykilling even than Hillary Clinton: B. Hussein Obama, the man in an empty suit, hollow pastiche of empty rhetoric and Messianic delusions. And, with him, they can empower the sort of "leadership" that will disgrace our nation in the eyes of the world, make us vulnerable as a country, and barter off the rights and freedoms of individual Christians — except to the degree that those few statesmen with a clue have the brains and guts to stand in their way.__And those statesmen will be mostly, or (since the party sold its soul to keep Bill Clinton in office, solely) Republicans.__So, yes, a Christian can vote Democratic and still be a Christian.__Of course, "can" and "should" are not synonyms. In this case, they are antonyms."

What Dan said is the most eloquent description of the seriousness of the issues we face this election season than any I have read so far.

On another thread someone said: "If there is two things you can be certain of, Obama/Mclaren will use christian terminology to expand secularism and the influence of eastern religious practices within the US."

That's my point, I think our freedoms are worth fighting to protect.

Frank Turk said...

I just want to make sure that's your last word, Stephen. I'll check back after work.

Phil Johnson said...

Stephen Wilson: "I have been increasingly concerned with the tone of the site bloggers. . ."

Stephen, I've been carefully measured in my interaction with you here. I have nothing to be ashamed about regarding my "tone," and I invite anyone who wants to make a fair judgment about that simply to re-read the comment-thread.

From your very first comment you have made this kind of scattershot accusation. You have (by your own admission) replied with anger, repeatedly. You've neglected to engage my arguments and responded with this sort of insult.

And yet I don't think I've said anything to you that is angry, snide, or unkind. I've dealt with your arguments, and objected to your ad-hom. But that's it. I have not returned tit for tat with you, and I think it's wrong for you to haul out the shopworn "tone" complaint, especially after the way you came storming aboard.

See this about "tone."

Frank Turk said...

Let me offer a very serious and sincere apology to Stephen Wilson from the thread I just closed here. I had a chat with Dan about that thread, and as a loyal dissenter on that particular topic, Dan said he felt like Stephen and I were talking past each other. That being the case, I take responsibility for whatever offense Stephen has received and I apologize. No other qualifications are necessary: I did not set out to offend him, but I did, and the fault is mine.

Stephen: please forgive me for the offense you have received.

Thread is closed.