13 June 2008

Christian citizenship out loud: another perspective?

by Dan Phillips


[Borrowing a page from my betters here, I'm reposting something from my blog, a bit updated. Actually, it was my second-ever post, from 2004. Do you see this perspective as the same? Different? The same, but different emphasis?]

The blessing of upright men exalts a town,
But by the mouth of wicked men it is torn down
(Proverbs 11:11, my translation)

The interpretive key to understanding many of the Proverbs from 10:1 on is in knowing the nature of Hebrew poetry, which does not tend to rhyme sounds as much as thoughts. That "rhyming" can be synonymous, or it can advance or complete the thought, or it can be contrastive. In this case, the "but" clues us that it is contrastive. Solomon is giving us two contrasting pictures.

That will help us understand each line. "The blessing of upright men," by itself, could mean the blessing they receive, the blessing that they themselves are, or the blessing that they speak. Any of these could be true, if the line stood alone.

But the second line is not so ambiguous: "by the mouth of wicked men [the town] is torn down." That clearly indicates what they speak, write, communicate. As it is a contrast to the first line, then, we understand that "the blessing of upright men" is what they say, write, communicate. Upright men exalt a town by the blessing communicated in what they say; wicked men tear it down by what they say.

Seen this way, the verse has many echoes in Proverbs and elsewhere. In Proverbs 10:11, we read that "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence." Again, in Proverbs 13:14a, "The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life." By contrast, "With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor" (Proverbs 11:9).

The Bible is very clear on the power that resides in the tongue, seen as the organ of communication. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue," we are told (Proverbs 18:21a). I don't think anyone has ever crystallized the matter as forcefully as James did, in the third chapter of his letter:

If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (Cf. James 3:1-11)

What does any of that have to do with Christians shutting up?

Since "evangelicals" (whatever that means, anymore) and generally the religious have shown some electoral presence, there has been an uptick in noise about the role of "the religious" in society. Some Christian leaders have advocated that Christians not be politically involved, but focus instead on evangelism. Others urge a Christian presence in the affairs of state.

Now, let me say first and clearly that the very best thing a Christian can do for the health of his nation is to grow in godliness, and to disciple others to Christ for all he's worth. I know that without a doubt, because that is a natural outgrowth of what Jesus singles out as the two greatest commandments: love God with everything we've got (which necessarily will mean growing in godliness), and love our neighbor as ourselves (which necessarily will mean pointing those who do not know Him to the Lord Jesus; Matthew 22:36-40).

But by this same token, this will also necessarily mean Christian involvement in civil life.

Why? Because God isn't segregated. He has something to say about every area of life. Abraham Kuyper was right: "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'" If we love Him, we will keep His commandments, which necessarily means learning to think His thoughts after Him — in every area.

What is politics about? Is it not about justice, personal wealth, freedoms, responsibilities, values? Is it not about the poor, the sick, the weak? Is it not about life and death issues?

Does God have something to say about possessions, and personal wealth? Does God have something to say about justice, the poor, life and death? I've read the Bible a few times, and I'd have to say... Duh! God has a great deal to say about all those issues.

So what is the Christian to do? Is he to clutch those truths to his breast, and let his country go to ruin as he coyly refuses to tell it anything except how to be saved? Is that love for his neighbor?

"But," one will say, "promoting values alone without Christ is mere civil religion, it is works-righteousness!"

And here's the problem: that facile bifurcation. Why is it an either/or? When we preserve a Christian framework, are we not building the sort of society that will afford us the greatest opportunities for preaching Christ? Besides, who is advocating anything like "Repeal Row v. Wade, and you will go to Heaven (— or bring Heaven to earth)!"?

Moreover, does any of us do this with our children? Do we teach them nothing until they make a credible profession of faith, get baptized, and join a church? No manners, not whether to hit their sister or not, not to keep their hands off others' possessions, not to obey us cheerfully and instantly, not to say "please" and "thank you," not to use the toilet instead of the sofa?

Here is the bottom-line. Our lost peers do not know what to think of life. None of it. They do not know what to make of values. They don't know where riches fit in, what justice is, or how to care for the poor. Worse still, they do not know that they do not know.

But God does know, and He has spoken. Some listen to Him, most don't. We claim to have listened to Him.

So: do those who by His sovereign grace alone have heard Him bear any responsibility to their still-lost neighbors? When their neighbors cry, "What do we do about the unborn?", or when they thunder off to do the wrong thing, do we respond, "Well, I know, but I won't tell you. Instead, let me share the Four Spiritual Laws. Meanwhile, vote however you want on that one"? Do we just let the little ones be shunted off to death, as we say, "Sorry, won't help you; but we are planning an evangelistic campaign!"?

If we see a gang of thugs beating up someone, and some of our neighbors say "Let's go save him," do refuse to participate until they give us their testimony and basic credo? Or do we join in, regardless of their motives, because we know it's the God-honoring thing to do?

Would that be loyal to God? Would that be loving our neighbor?

The wicked are set on destroying their city. They may mean it consciously, they may not. It does not matter. God knows, and He has spoken. Their path seems right to them, but it leads to death and destruction (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25) - theirs, their children's, our children's. It is ours to stand athwart that path and say, "Stop! Go this way instead!"

Hating and not understanding Christians, and seeing in us only that we stand between them and their (ultimately ruinous) desires, worldlings will tell us to shut up. They will tell us to go back to church, sing hymns and pray, and leave the steering of society to them. Hitler said this, and many German pastors acquiesced. Liberals said this at the start of the 20th century, and great sections of the American church acquiesced... and we are living in the backwash of that miscalculation today.

Told to shut up, we must respond, "Thanks for the suggestion, but no." We have the Constitutionally guaranteed right to speak up and be involved (First Amendment), and we have a responsibility from God to do so.

Much is expected from those to whom much has been given.

Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
12 If you say, "Behold, we did not know this,"
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?
(Proverbs 24:11-12)

Dan Phillips's signature

83 comments:

jeff said...

Dan,
Very well said. I couldn't agree more. The Bible verses you used said it so well. We will be held accountable to God if we don't speak the truth in Love. To know what is right and not to do it is a sin. We have an obligation. It would be a "cop out" to withdraw and not voice our convictions. Thanks for the post.
Jeff

Frank Turk said...

After lunch today I will post my affirmations and denials of the things Dan said here.

I hope it will be edifiying.

DJP said...

"After lunch." Let's see... it's 5:50 here, which means it's maybe 8:50 for Frank... if lunch is noon, then I've got...

THREE HOURS TO LIVE!!!

Mike said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

New rule, made up by me, for this thread only.

If you want to agree with me, fine. In fact, great! But I'm not going to have anyone use my post and say, "See, Phil?" or "See, Frank?" Do that, even if you're giving me a thumbs-up, and I'll delete it.

Like I just did.

I think the world of Phil and Frank. That's not a "line," it's the truth. The thought that anyone would see this as a rift betwixt them and me made me put the post up and ask them both to read it days ago. If they'd said, "Folks will see this as an argument," or anything like that, it'd have gone wherever posts go when they die.

I learn from Phil, I learn from Frank. I like them, and I love them. I have more to learn from each. It's hard to conceive that they have anything to learn from me. When I call them my "betters," I'm grinning, but I'm not really joking.

DJP said...

Oh, btw, thanks for agreeing. Nothing personal. Hope you understand.

Mike said...

See, Dan? :)

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

The above was humor. I realize I don't know Phil, but these come to mind: Proverbs 9:8 and 27:5

DJP said...

And, Lilith... your comment has what to do with my post?

Mike said...

"The thought that anyone would see this as a rift betwixt them and me..."

Never occurred to me. See? :)
You're a product of what you think.

Lilith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DJP said...

Yes, Lilith, I'm very slow. Thanks for being patient with me.

But I don't think anyone will find anything in my post that comes close to suggesting that any Christian should ever compromise the Gospel. But associating myself with people who, whatever their beliefs, share the goal of reducing or outlawing abortion is not eo ipso a compromise of the Gospel. Getting rid of abortion is a moral goal.

It wouldn't be like (say) associating myself with organizations or web sites that promote or condone homosexual activity, which would always and necessarily be eo ipso immoral and contrary to the Gospel.

Do you need me to walk you through that?

Mike said...

"eo ipso"

Had to look that one up. It's Latin for "by that very fact."

Dan, you've got a better com,mand of words than I do.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

DJP: "If you want to agree with me, fine. In fact, great!

I agree! ;-)

You articulate and argue my position with far greater biblical support and rhetorical flourish than I ever could.

Standing, footstomping, two-finger whistling ovation for a great post!

Stan McCullars said...

Lilith,
I may have resolved the apparent confusion. Your response was meant for Phil's post from yesterday, Let's Stay on Message.

DJP said...

MikeDan, you've got a better com,mand of words than I do.

Probably just those two words. And now you have them, too!

(c;

Lilith said...

Thanks Stan. I guess I'm just a scatter-brained blunderbuss.

Phil Johnson said...

Did I mention I'm off to N. California this weekend? I'm speaking in a men's conference in Shingle Springs tomorrow and then teaching the Summerim sessions at Cornerstone Seminary next week. So I'll let Frank's affirmations and denials stand for me, too.

And if it becomes necessary, I'll buzz over to Sacramento and egg Dan's house.

Char said...

I agree with both this and the last post. :)

It is our neighbour that needs our works is it not? It is not necessary that this should mute the gospel for service is not confused with and does not replace the preaching of the gospel, nor is it meant to do so.

That's where people go wrong on either side of such a debate, conflating law with gospel (though in a different manner). One can not moralize or legislate people into the kingdom. However one certainly can serve them to their good in a political vocation.

The question is what is the christian trying to do through political action?

The Doulos said...

Dan, I think what you are promoting here is for Christians to speak to and live out a Biblical world view, since that in fact is the only way that a society will function well, due to the fact that it reflects the inherent design of the Creator in all aspects of the world. And we of all people are the only ones equipped to do so because, as you state, those in the world do not, indeed cannot, comprehend these Biblical principles. So the answer is, both/and. Work for the advancement of the Gospel of Christ and His redeeming of individuals, as well as working within our sphere of influence to promote that which is in accordance with the Biblical worldview. One for the sake of lost sinners, the other for the peace and prosperity of the land. And both to and for the glory of God.

backwoodspresbyterian said...

The real question is:

Autonomy or Theonomy?

That is our only choice.

Chad V. said...

No, the real question is;

What is backwoodspresbyterian talking about?

Lilith said...

Hopefully this reply will go in the right thread.

Dan: Our lost peers do not know what to think of life. None of it. They do not know what to make of values. They don't know where riches fit in, what justice is, or how to care for the poor. Worse still, they do not know that they do not know.

I disagree. Our lost peers are not without a conscience. Both Peter and Paul recognized the working of God the Holy Spirit in those who are currently outside the Church. Cornelius turned to God before he heard the gospel, he was advised by an angel to seek out Peter, who cried out, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."

Paul declared, "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy," and in another place, "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness...

LeeC said...

I'm not seeing a dichotomy here between this and the last few posts by Phil.

Vote, lobby, run for office.
But never NEVER think that will save anyone or really change the world.


The spirit in which you vote, lobby or run for office can have a big impact on the world. As either a good wittness for what Christ can do in a life, or a bad one.

It's like how John MacArthur is always willing to be interviewed on TV by Larry King and others. But unlike all the other Christian religious leaders on Larry King if you get Pastor MacArthur on He WILL get the Gospel out.

Every time.

Why? Because winning the argument with Depak Chopra is never going to save anyone. Only the Gospel will.

Run for office if you have the desire and think you will do a good job. But never compromise your faith. And never think that you are creating permanent change through legislation. But instead when we are politically active we a small part of the rain that falls on both the righteous and the wicked.

This is not a war, there is no duality. I vote for what I believe are good laws, and moral issues, and the best politician both for myself and fellow believers sake, but also to strive to be a blessing to the world, while I continue to do the really important part, the Gospel.

If I have the means to create a beneficial environment for my fellow man (which I believe is a biblically obedient one) and I do not preferring only to share the Gospel then am I not merely saying "Be warm and filled"?

DJP said...

Lilith, neither of those passages indicates that the worldview or ethical processing system of unbelievers is sound. The evidence is heavily to the contrary:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good,
not even one.” ...16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God [— which is foundational to wisdom (Proverbs 1:9; 9:10, etc.] before their eyes” (from Romans 3)

Paul further describes pagans as being enslaved to "the futility of their minds"; further, "They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity" (from Ephesians 4).

They have been given over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28), which is why they give themselves over to such irredeemable practices as idolatry and homosexuality (Romans 1:18-32).

Thanks to the imago dei, and the inescapability of God's built-in design for the universe, these broken analog clocks are right every noon and midnight.

But (A) not for the right reason; and (B) it doesn't make them good timekeepers.

The evaluation stands.

Mark Patton said...

Mr. Phillips,

Is the difference in this discussion narrowed if we defined the responsibilities of individual Christians and the "corporate" church? Yes, I know that the individual members are the church, but isn't there a difference between my members getting together for a right to life rally on their own and me as a pastor forming a right to life rally? I appreciate and find myself agreeing with your set of lenses, but I also hail from churches that would exalt the constitution over the Bible (not really, but really). I would love to find the balance. Thank you for your well thought out and Biblical explanation.

Mike said...

Lilith:
I believe this is pertinent to show that, while the lost peers are not without conscience, the lack of knowledge is nevertheless by choice:

Hos 4:6
(6) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

Frank Turk said...

DANG IT!

I always wanted to egg Dan's house!

Frank Turk said...

Back woods:

FALSE DICOTOMY.

More later.

DJP said...

Frank Turk: Team Tease

Chasburge said...

Spot on. More like it.

Mike said...

Frank,

Dichotomy is the spelling ;)

Strong Tower said...

The real question is:

Mymonomy vs Taxonomy

When I was running for the State House my father in law said that all politicians were liars. So I didn't ask him to make a donation.
My oldest daughter said it would be a lie if I told the truth but didn't tell people that it was Christian truth. I didn't know there was a difference. When asked, I always told the truth. When the ballots were returned I didn't want to know the truth. But it couldn't be denied. It wasn't that my opponent lied, he just didn't tell the truth. But, my constituents didn't want the truth, they wanted what they wanted, largess, even the conservatives. I could have told them what the wanted, but it would not have been the truth.

The church I attend has two popularly elected individuals, one holds an apolitical office, School Board Trustee, the other is a Representative in the Wyoming House. Both are upright, truthful and uncompromising believers (paedobaptist but no one's perfect). The first is an Elder. It is not impossible to maintain integrity and be a Christian in politics. I have never seen nor heard where either of them runs as a Christian. They run as citizens and their object is to do what they believer to be just, good, and right for their constituents.

If I enter politics again (my wife would kill me) I would do as I did before: know the issues, know what is law, know what is constitutional, know what is right and good and pursue them. That makes for an uphill battle, but it is not impossible to gain position in the gate of the city among its leaders. I am not deluded (no laughing Cent) into believing that holding office will produce the Kingdom on Earth. It is at the same time not unreasonable to believe that a Christian presence at least provides another finger in the Dike (capitalization intentional).

I am personally thankful for the many fathers who came before us who held the Scripture in high esteem. Whatever their aspirations for the establishing of this country were, it does not now matter. They provided for us a system that we can and should be active in simply for the peace of all. As has been said, we have access to the means to defend the weak, the widow and the fatherless. It is not that without the system we could not, but having the system, we would be as foolish as the fool who refuses to bring the food his mouth having had it set before him if we do not. And we would starve not only ourselves but our neighbors if we acquiesce as did the church in Germany when confronted by populist culture.

Ours still must be Jesus' stand: "You would have no power over me had it not been granted to you from above." Having been granted the power of government from above, what then should we do with it? I am convinced that nothing in and of itself is evil, that includes government. What we do with it and how we do it is really the question.

Char said...

Mark Patton:
you have a point. I think that the institutional church is meant to serve believers and believers serve their neighbours. If a certain church gets too involved in politics, it is bypassing and usurping the role of the individual believer in the world-and it is neglecting it's real duty to those believers and the gospel.

Mike said...

Strong Tower:

"It is at the same time not unreasonable to believe that a Christian presence at least provides another finger in the Dike (capitalization intentional)."

Let's put it this way:

Remove the finger, and Jesus will come back sooner. ;)

Carlo said...

I've said this before and I'll say it again (RC Sproul really helped me in this thinking), I will not be like the American Indians in the reservations and I refuse to be neutralized from being forces that shape our world in the areas of politics, literature, arts and the sciences.

And I refuse to see myself as having a faith that is private and personal living off a remote reservation having nothing to do with penetrating the life of the world around it. That applies to the proclamation of the gospel and the world of art, literature, politics, music, education, and jurispudence.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

What I wrote yesterday without knowing anything about today's post by DJP:

"Think Both/And and not just Either/Or with your exhortation to "Let's stay on message."

A Christian can certainly preach the Gospel message AND also communicate worthy secondary messages as well. You seem to be setting up an unhelpful and unnecessary bifurcation."

DJP today: "And here's the problem: that facile bifurcation. Why is it an either/or?"

Conclusion: GMTA! Great Minds Think Alike!

;-)

P.S. PJ, what will you be speaking about in your men's conference tomorrow in Shingle Springs? Can you share some details? Maybe I give you some old Easter eggs to throw.

Strong Tower said...

mike-

I'm not so sure that's a good idea: Amos 5:18-20.

Mike said...

"Conclusion: GMTA! Great Minds Think Alike!"

It's nice, but I got a problem with that. Y'see, the proper way to think alike is with the hearts, not your minds. :)

After all, you meditate with your heart, as according to Proverbs, which says things like "keep [the word] in the midst of thine heart" (Pro 4:21).

And it's even consistent across Proverbs.

As for the mind, it's gotta be renewed by the word (Rom 12:2, Eph 4:23)

Mike Riccardi said...

ST,

Isn't that passage addressed to the wicked?

Consider: "The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, But is terror to the workers of iniquity."

And also: "Amen. Come Lord Jesus."

Right?

Mike said...

Strong tower:
"I'm not so sure that's a good idea: Amos 5:18-20."

Oh, I take it then that you're not a premillennialist? I am, and the day of the Lord described in Amos we are not subject to (Rev 3:10, Luke 21:36, both in context). We're not going to be subject to God's wrath.

And Riccardi's correct, too.

Chad V. said...

Mike said;
Remove the finger and Jesus will come back sooner.

So it's your contention that by doing good in the world we as the church actually slow the return of Christ, but if we hasten the growth of wickedness by "removing our finger from the dike" we will hasten Christ's return?

You make a very dangerous argument. Christians must never encourage the wicked to maintain their wickedness either passively or actively. Where in all of scripture do you find the command to "remove your finger from the dike"?

Strong Tower's reference to Amos is indeed to the wicked, but it has good application here. Also, we are told to await the day of the Lord knowing that God is faithful but never to hasten it by letting wickedness break loose. (2 Pet 3:8-13)

Mike Riccardi said...

Well, we couldn't hasten it or slow it down anyway. It's nor our Day to hasten or slow down.

Even though I think we can rejoice in the Lord's coming in His glory to deliver us and to strike down the nations, also think that that joy must be sorrowful (2Cor 6) and with a gut-wrenching compassion that only compels us to preach the Gospel more clearly and faithfully.

Chad V. said...

Mike Riccardi

Exactly...

Strong Tower said...

Yes, I took it to mean that it would be more expedient let society collapse and thereby hasten the day, though I thought mike said it in jest. As you quote: "The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, But is terror to the workers of iniquity" and so the Lord says through Amos, "Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time." Obviously, the appeal is to some, at least, who are not imprudent as the evil are.

It is not a time of joy but of judgement and yes we look forward to Maranatha, not to that time of darkness but to the time of Light, after those days. We should not gloat nor glory in the woe that comes upon the world as the Lord triumphs over our enemies, rather we should seek their good. It is like this, the Myanmar catastrophy for sure brought to some judgement, should we then rejoice? Nay, we should weep over the destruction of life, even knowing that for some it meant going home to be with the Lord.

That was my only reflection, simply that it is not a time that we should rejoice in, nor should we hasten it by actions we take or do not take. Instead it is prudent not to call for judgement but for justice and to work toward that goal so that by any means some might be saved.

An no I am not premillenial, I am amillenial.

But this really isn't about eschatology, this is about vocation as we persevere in this world and whether or not it is right or wrong to participate in the governing of a people, and upon what basis that is done.

I was not baiting an argument.

Strong Tower said...

Yes, mike R., amen.

backwoodspresbyterian said...

Again Autonomy or Theonomy? Those are the only choices.

Mike Riccardi said...

BWP,

Could you elaborate?

donsands said...

"Much is expected from those to whom much has been given."

We surely are free here in the USA. And the Constitution. I think, was a document written in view of Scripture. It was set to help govern, but as Scripture as its foundation.

Christ is the cornerstone, and the apostles and prophets are the foundation, and they represent the Holy Writ.

This was a well balanced post. I was encouraged.

Christian men, need to be men. We do need to speak up at times. And we never need to be ashamed of Jesus.

I remember hearing at a prayer breakfast in Congress, where a Christian Congressman opened with prayer, and acknowledge God the Father, and simply ended his prayer with Amen. No mention of Jesus Christ.
Politically correctness. Ashamed of his Lord.

Chad V. said...

Strong Tower/ Mike;
If that was a jest then it's over my head.

backwoodsprebyterian

Theonomy equals legalism, Autonomy equals wickedness. You're dichotomy is false, but I'll let Frank deal with that since he's already declared his intention to do so.

Mike said...

Ricardi:
"Well, we couldn't hasten it or slow it down anyway. It's nor our Day to hasten or slow down."

I understand and agree, it's not my intended message.

I was playing with the practical aspects of affecting (or not) the return of Jesus merely by our presence.

Mike said...

"Hitler said this, and many German pastors acquiesced. "

I'm a WWII buff. Do you have a ref for this? I remember this somewhere.

DJP said...

Sure: Liber Scientiae Vulgarae, 2:379.

DJP said...

I say Frank's late.

I say he's Hillary Clinton late.

Mike said...

Thanks, DJP. I'll hold it in high esteem.

The Lord's given you a reprieve, but judgement day's comin'.

Polycarp said...

Great balnced perspective here Dan! I couldn't agree more. The two extremes--Robertsonesque or McLarenesque--are clearly not the models for Christians when it comes to our engagement with contemporary society. What you present here is Pauline indeed!

Frank Turk said...

Wow. I actually work on Friday afternoon and Dan gets all Steve Camp on me.












... wait for it ...

DJP said...

Y'know....



...I was going to scream, but then I realized, "Clinton, Camp — I had it coming."

Touché.

ChosenClay said...

Well as a responsible Christian, I vote during every election, whether it's local or national. Unfortunately, all I seem to receive for my effort is a yearly summons from the county court using my voter registration for jury duty!

Sigh…

Regarding this years presidential race, I’m stuck with Barack “The Candy Man” Obama or John “The Manchurian Candidate” McCain.

Lord, have mercy on America.

DJP said...

First paragraph: ouch. Too true.

Third paragraph: see first paragraph.

I don't ever remember being less enthusiastic (at this point) about my "for" vote — although I'm very enthusiastic about my "against" vote, if ya foller me.

Daryl said...

Dan,

Welcome to the world of Canadian politics...

Mike said...

"Lord, have mercy on America."

The nation is on the way out. There is no prophecy for this nation in the Bible.

Sharon said...

chosenclay:
Well as a responsible Christian, I vote during every election, whether it's local or national. Unfortunately, all I seem to receive for my effort is a yearly summons from the county court using my voter registration for jury duty!

I seem to be the only one in my little circle of (Christian) friends who actually counts it a privilege to be chosen to sit on a jury! Who better to render a just verdict than one who knows the truth!

A Musician by Grace

DJP said...

Well, so CC doesn't have to speak for himself, Sharon, I'll say on his behalf that he's a good citizen, but his situation makes jury duty more than an inconvenience.

Mike said...

Well, if you don't want to serve in a jury, don't register to vote, right?

ChosenClay said...

Thanks Dan,

I would love the opportunity to be on a jury.

But as one who is self-employed, jury duty does nothing but cost me time, which in my profession (remodeling contractor)is money. I am the sole provider for a family of six. To put it bluntly, "If I don't work, we don't eat!"

Note: This exactly what I write on the jury duty summons and I am excused every time.

Susan said...

"Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
12 If you say, "Behold, we did not know this,"
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?"
(Proverbs 24:11-12)



I remember reading these verses under some very stressful circumstances in a non-Christian environment, and I had stumbled and thought, "Who's gonna listen to me now that I've made such blunders?" Yes, I know I should share the Gospel with others and that I personally have no power to save them, even if my witness were stellar, but not having been a good witness made me very self-conscious in saying ANYTHING about Christ. Thus one evil led to the other...guess I need to remember 1 Jn 1:9.

Susan said...

Chosen Clay,

I have seen the movie "The Manchurian Candidate" (Sinatra and Angela Lansbury were in it). Forgive my political "unsavviness", but how is McCain the "Manchurian Candidate"?

Strong Tower said...

Susan- you should try the new version with Denzel

I think J MCCain is too damaged to make a good Manchurian.

But then I think he was one of the original alien invaders.

Susan said...

Wow, Strong Tower, I had no idea....

Don't remember which pres. election it was, but I didn't like any of the candidates, so I only voted for the ballot measures! A friend thought me crazy to have "wasted" my ballot like that!! But I have to agree with R.C. Sproul, Sr. He said (in effect) at one of the Ligonier conferences that voting is a privilege (or right?) and not a duty (obligation?) and that sometimes by not voting we are saying something. (Wish I could remember the exact quote! It did draw an applause from the audience.) Anyhow, wonder if I'll have to "waste" my ballot again this year....

Tim Pauley said...

Dan,

I do not believe the question is whether or not we should speak up or be involved, but rather, what is the most effective way and forum in which to do so.

Is politics the best place for churches and believers to place our emphasis on proclaiming the truth and standing for righteousness?

Mike said...

I really appreciate this discussion. I think politics are a great outlet for Christ centered discussion, just like every other facet of our lives. I think the comments regarding being more famous for your politics than for your beliefs ring true too often. I find myself grumbling about congress and the president far too often. I think going to God and praying for revival is a much better outlet. God bless you all

Strong Tower said...

Susan-

I don't know who JM is, really. I thought that interview interesting but about as dependable as the Area 51 stuff. JM neither has a good track record nor is he making me comfortable with his vision for America. I would vote for Bob Barr but the thought of President BB doesn't give me much comfort either...

Rick Frueh said...

Should we then participate in the Masonic Lodge which is every bit as pluralistic as is the American political scene? Christ says "mine"? They do works of humanitarian benefit and may not even be as corrupt as American politics.

American politics is an open attempt to manipulate the wills of man to forward a pluralistic society that is against the gosepl and uses Judeo-Christian issues as leverage for more votes and power. They have no more or less focus on the issues that "supposedly" concern us than does the Masonic Lodge I referenced.

It is well intentioned but it is seriously misguided and even ecclesiastically obstructionist and has had a duplicitous effect on even the most orthodox of churches. It is time to at least investigate the possibility that we were absolutely wrong in ever getting involved, much less making it part of a well rounded plan of moral redemption. You cannot serve two masters.

Just some thoughts...

VcdeChagn said...

Should we then participate in the Masonic Lodge which is every bit as pluralistic as is the American political scene? Christ says "mine"? They do works of humanitarian benefit and may not even be as corrupt as American politics.

Very poor straw man argument. You cannot be a Mason without taking an oath that contradicts the Gospel.

However, you can be a politician without compromising the Gospel.

You probably won't be a successful one, but that's not the issue you raise.

Rick Frueh said...

"However, you can be a politician without compromising the Gospel."

An American politician? Maybe...
But you would not get elected so what's the point.

Chad V. said...

Rick Frueh;

You may want to go back up and read Strong Tower's first comment. It sort of burns your straw man. So does Acts 13:1.

Rick Frueh said...

Acts 13:1 ? A simple narrative with no commentary. ST has an experience which does not equate to truth. A man converts to Buddhism and his life is changed, he gives up drugs, he senses peace, and he finds purpose.

His positive results and experience do not authenticate Buddhism. According to the New Testament we are supposed to obey the government not become it, we are supoosed to render unto Ceasar not become Ceasar, and we are not supposed to get entangled with the affairs of this life.

In essence politics is antithetical and duplicitous as it concerns the Great Commission.

Chad V. said...

Sad, very sad. Yes, the narrative is that there was a Christian man in the church of Ephesis who held high political office under Herod and we have no reason to think that he was unfaithful in any way.

Strong Tower's post shows that it is indeed possible to be a faithful Christian and still be elected to office here in America, unless you maintain that Strong Tower is a liar and an unfaithful Christian and you have no reason to accuse him of that.

Just keep setting up those straw men, they'll just keep burning. I'd remind you that Daniel held a high political office under Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon and about Joseph in Egypt, but I know how well you like your straw men.

Frank Turk said...

Yeah, listen:

Dan Philips? Golden. There’s not a better friend to have, and not someone whose opinion I think more of. All that gloppy stuff he said about learning from me? 100 times more back at him. I’m smart; he’s whatever smart to the power of loving is. So as I unfold my affirmations and denials, there’s no subtext or background intrigue I’m sort of winking at.

Dan rocks. And his post here is really pretty good. I especially like this part when he says:

[quote]
But by this same token, this will also necessarily mean Christian involvement in civil life. Why? Because God isn't segregated. He has something to say about every area of life.
[/quote]

Seriously: high-falutin’ ay-men. I think Phil would equally raise a hand in agreement to say that God is God of everything, and those of who know Him and are known by Him ought to, in some way, do well to remember that.

All the moreso when Dan says:

[quote]
If we love Him, we will keep His commandments, which necessarily means learning to think His thoughts after Him — in every area.
[/quote]

That’s about as biblely as you can get, I think. But factually, I also know that Dan’s not a theonomist, right? So what he –doesn’t- mean here is that the government ought to be like the government God decreed for Israel, and in that I’m going to chase the false dichotomy of either autonomy or theonomy.

And I’m going to do that by touching Rom :

[quote]
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
[/quote]

Now, look: if Paul were a theonomist, I think he’d have a somewhat less, um, optimistic view of the government of the Romans, don’t you think? If he was a hard-core theonomist, I think the theonomist wouldn’t say it’s OK to “be subject to ruling authorities” who call themselves gods. He wouldn’t call a government which was condoning or actually advocating persecutions of Christians “God’s servant for your good”.

So whatever choices we have, they are not only between “autonomy” and “theonomy”, Nancy Pearcy notwithstanding.

And I think Dan would agree with that. But if it’s not “either” I’m in charge of me “or” God must be our king (a sentiment which sounds suspiciously like JW theology, IMO), what do we do with, for example, a constitutional democracy like the USA?

See: I think that question has jumped a few steps before it can rightly be –asked-, let alone rightly –answered-. Because, you know, the truth really is that when Jesus comes back, he’s not going to conduct elections every 4 years to find out if we still want him as Lord and Christ.

In that, I think Dan doesn’t really say anything else to object to when it comes to what to do on the first Tuesday in November, and whenever you have local run-offs like we did last week here in AR. Go vote. In fact, go vote as you are informed not just on the issues, but as you are informed by the Bible. In fact, get informed by the Bible so you can vote.

Right? Who’s with me?

The problem comes in when Dan (or anyone) says something like this:

[quote]
So: do those who by His sovereign grace alone have heard Him bear any responsibility to their still-lost neighbors? When their neighbors cry, "What do we do about the unborn?", or when they thunder off to do the wrong thing, do we respond, "Well, I know, but I won't tell you. Instead, let me share the Four Spiritual Laws. Meanwhile, vote however you want on that one"? Do we just let the little ones be shunted off to death, as we say, "Sorry, won't help you; but we are planning an evangelistic campaign!"?
[/quote]

Because it the first place it misses the place where we agree that the Christian must do what those who bear the name of Christ must do. We are extremely fortunate (well ... listen: one topic at a time) that we live in a time and place where we are allowed to vote in elections that, as far as they go, are not rigged. We should vote as thus-saith-YVHV-informed people who are power-of-the-Holy-Spirit born into the Kingdom of God but not yet wholly in possession of what the King will bring to His Kingdom.

We agree: vote. In fact, if you are gifted and called, run for office.

But let’s think about something here. Dan seems to imply (and I look forward to his clarification, if necessary) that the choice is, “either I help the lost understand the moral issues of the day through political means, or I evangelize them – but I can’t do both. I have to choose one.”

If you asked me (and you didn’t really, but I’m a contributor here so you have to at least scroll past my opinions), I’d say, “rather, I think that the only way we can inform them about the moral issues of the day is by evangelizing them.”

Romans 1 tells us plainly that there’s nobody who doesn’t know, by the glory and revelation evident in nature, that God has decreed a moral law. In fact, Paul says they know what it is well enough that they will form their own laws to match it (Rom 2). Right? And in Rom 13, Paul even comes back to that idea and says that whoever rules in government has been appointed by God to punish evildoers – using the law they have. So Paul’s assumption about government and law is that it will be close enough that it will demonstrate some ministry as decreed by God.

But I say all that to remind you of this:

[quote]
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
[/quote]

See – Paul didn’t have the problem or the blessing of constitutional democracy; he couldn’t vote for theonomy or a theonomic agenda. What he had was this Gospel, and no chance to form a political action committee to influence the agenda of those in “power”. And to him, the way to “respond” was with “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”.

Think about this carefully, because if we make a mistake here we either fall into the trap of the social Gospel, or into the other trap of pietism and moralism. Your public behavior, in the face of the law of man ought to be the law of God. That is Paul’s prescription – because there’s no law against the law of God, he says.

What he –doesn’t- say is, “demand that the unsaved behave the way the saved will behave”. Because the –right- engagement here is Law >>>to>> GOSPEL, which is not, to put a fine point on it, Law >>>to>>> Good People.

There is a –necessary- distinction between what the government ought to do and what the church ought to do. And I think it’s a good saying to spell out that the church is in the redemption business and not the punishment business. Yet – for many reasons – the church has gained itself the reputation as being thirsty for punishment rather than as a fountain of living water.

Who should we be? You know: the second-century Christians had a worse problem than we do in this matter, and if you read the Letter to Diognetus it turns out that they took Paul’s advice and lived like they were from another world, like what they valued didn’t belong to Caesar.

And that’s hard for us, the American Christians, because we are our own Caesar. We would rather be the Christians who arrived at “Christendom” who have a moral and God-centered society which is waiting for Christ to return, fighting the theonomic battle of truth, justice and the American way. But the truth is that we are a lot more like Israel in 1 Sam 8-11 who wants a king to rule over us, who is rich and handsome and stand head-and-shoulders taller than anyone in our land.

I think we should be church first if we are serious about being God’s peculiar people, and when it comes up, we vote; we do things “like ministry”, which includes blogging, and discussing, and also serving our communities with things like crisis pregnancy centers and by adopting the orphan.

But when we devote our energy to making the government the savior of us all, to making it the one which does God’s work (which has the sly undertone of “so we don’t have to”), we have really forgotten what it means to be the Household of God.

Geez – 4 pages. Sorry Dan! And sorry it took me all weekend to write this.

Rick Frueh said...

Frank - The difference between God's people in I Samuel and America is that Israel was both God's people and God's nation. Pretty much the same. America is just a secular nation and part of the church lives here.

We, as the church, already have a King. America has hers, we have ours. There's is elected, ours is the King of Glory before creation. And when we vote for the person who promises to pad our wallets, we reveal our fallen nature. The candidate who said that the economy would tank if he was elected wouldn't even get the evangelical vote, even if he promised to do everything he could to outlaw abortion.

The love of money rules the election from all camps.

DJP said...

FRANK

Sorry this is so overdue. Just trying to make Frank's delay not look so bad! (c:

I'm in substantial agreement with Frank's post, and total appreciation for him. Let's focus on this:

Dan seems to imply (and I look forward to his clarification, if necessary) that the choice is, “either I help the lost understand the moral issues of the day through political means, or I evangelize them – but I can’t do both. I have to choose one.”

I'm happy to clarify. I'm not saying that at all. In fact, I began my post by affirming that evangelism is the best thing one could do for his country, viewed one way.

My post is a protest against any Christian adopting either in exclusion to the other. Some of the comments led me to think that a lot of people heard Phil as saying, "Political involvement, feh! Don't bother! Big waste of time! Just evangelize. Why polish the brass on a sinking boat?"

It's like the way people mis-cite "The Great Commission," as being to go evangelize the nations. It isn't. It is to make disciples of all nations. Enroll them as lifetime students-without-portfolio of ALL of Christ's words. Not just tell them how to become Christians, then tell them to go tell other people how to become Christians.


Any clearer, or better?

And your point is a good one that "...Paul didn’t have the problem or the blessing of constitutional democracy; he couldn’t vote for theonomy or a theonomic agenda." So it's a dicey transfer. That's where I bring in the pan-Biblical principle of "greater privilege = greater responsibility." In a participatory government such as ours, that's a very relevant principle.

...if we make a mistake here we either fall into the trap of the social Gospel, or into the other trap of pietism and moralism.

Amen. My very concern, put more concisely.

What [Paul] –doesn’t- say is, “demand that the unsaved behave the way the saved will behave”. Because the –right- engagement here is Law >>>to>> GOSPEL, which is not, to put a fine point on it, Law >>>to>>> Good People.

Now that one is more complicated, I think, and would open a whole new section of the supermarket worth of worms. Did God judge Sodom and Gomorrha because they weren't saved, or because of their sins? How about the iniquity of the Amorites getting "full" for judgment (Genesis 15:16)? How about Jeremiah 18:7-8, or 29:4-7? Do these and the many, many related passages have no application to this discussion?

But perhaps, as the Cookie Monster observed so appositely, "Me digress."

Thanks again.