09 June 2008

Slaves, not rulers



ere's number three in our list of four biblical principles politically-obsessed evangelical churches and parachurch organizations need to remember. To review:

1. Preaching, not lobbying, is how we make truth known.
2. Gospel, not Law is what changes sinful hearts.

And now—

3. Service, not dominion, is the most effective way to win people in any culture

In Matthew 20:25-28, Jesus addresses the very question that lies at the heart of this series of blogposts: If we want to maximize our influence for the kingdom of Christ in our culture and our community, what's the best way to do it? If we want to be a great leaders and influencers of men and women, what approach should we take?

Here's Jesus' answer: "Jesus called [the disciples] together and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise dominion over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'"

The command includes both negative and positive elements. Jesus is emphatic about the negative aspect: we're not to seek greatness, or influence, or power in the kingdom of Christ by the raw exercise of authority over other people. He's talking specifically about governmental and legislative authority.

And the "positive" part certainly won't sound very appealing to the average person jockeying for political clout or partisan power. Instead, Jesus says, serve. Not in the sense of serving a term in office—but in the sense of making yourself a slave to others.

Now, let's be clear here: Jesus is not spurning the idea of legal authority or human government. We've already seen that Scripture recognizes and affirms the proper role of rulers. Romans 13 defines that role, and verse 4 expressly says that when a ruler properly wields the sword against evildoers, "he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer."

But here in this context Jesus was speaking to His apostles as representatives and leaders of His church and ambassadors for His kingdom. And He makes this clear differentiation between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Caesar: The two kingdoms are run with completely different principles—because they operate in totally separate arenas; they function with exactly opposite strategies; they are pursuing entirely different goals; and the way they leverage their power and influence is therefore likewise thoroughly and radically different.

To illustrate, it's clear from Romans 13 that the government is authorized by God to use force—up to and including deadly force and even capital punishment. Paul says it is both good and legitimate for earthly governments to wield their power—and even use the sword—to enforce submission to their rightful authority and to punish evildoers who deserve punishment. Romans 13:4 again: "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."

But nowhere in all the New Testament is the church ever authorized to use the sword for any purpose—including the punishment of damnable heresy in her own midst. The most extreme remedy available to the church for punishing evildoers is excommunication. It would be a terrible sin for the church to overstep her bounds and employ any kind of force against heretics or evildoers, because she has no authority from God to do that.

Again: Christ and Caesar rule different kingdoms, by different principles.

Moreover, the church has no commission from God to harness the power of Caesar—even under a democratic regime—in order to attempt to advance the kingdom of Christ by legislative force, doctrinal dominionism, or any other kind of constraint. What Jesus was saying in this text (Matthew 20:25-28) forbids exactly that, in the most emphatic terms: "The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise [dominion] over them. It shall not be so among you."

When Christian Reconstructionism was having its heyday back in the mid-1990s, I often encountered post-millennial theonomists who were convinced that the key to ushering in the kingdom of Christ on earth was for the church to gain dominion over our culture and our government's public policy—chiefly through legal maneuvering and political means. They weren't merely saying, as I already have, that government service (or even a career in politics) is a legitimate and honorable vocation for individual Christians whom God places in those positions. They were teaching that political activism is the duty of the church as a corporate entity. They were in effect teaching that gaining and exercising political power is one of the most vital ingredients to the advancement of Christ's kingdom.

That flatly contradicts what Jesus Himself said in Matthew 20:25-26 ("the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion . . . But it shall not be so among you.") It also conflicts with the pattern of ministry in the New Testament church. Even Paul, who appealed his own case to Caesar, did so not with the hope he might influence Caesar's public policy (which, to be candid, was a thousand times more evil than anything the American Democratic Party has yet proposed)—but Paul asked for a hearing in Rome because he longed for an opportunity to preach the gospel there. He was happy to go there in chains—not to protest the treatment he had received at the hands of Roman officials, but to preach to Caesar and his household the gospel of redemption.

That should be our spirit as well. I'd be thrilled if America ever elected a president who really believed Scripture and followed its principles without compromise. But to be totally honest, I doubt that's possible in any democratic system. Furthermore, on those rare occasions when truly devoted, Bible-believing Christians have found themselves in possession of the reins of significant political power, they have almost always managed to make a mess of it.

Remember what Will Durant wrote about Cromwell: "His private morals were impeccable, [but] his public morals were no better than those of other rulers; he used deception or force when he thought them necessary to his major purposes. No one has yet reconciled Christianity with government."

The problem, I believe, is the very thing Jesus highlighted in Matthew 20:25-28 the kingdom of God is ultimately not advanced by the flexing of political clout.

Phil's signature

63 comments:

JOYce@pfg said...

Good morning and wow ~ thanks; political protocol oft = compromise of God's truth & glory. His way is perfect. How many really desire to suffer for the sake of righteousness when the rubber hits the road though the intentions may have been rightly aligned at the starting gate?

Frank Turk said...

We'll see if any of the Emergent-friendlier pick up on this post, and what they'll say about it.

Lilith said...

That flatly contradicts what Jesus Himself said in Matthew 20:25-26 ("the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion ...But it shall not be so among you.")

I agree with what you're saying, because Jesus was about laying down power rather than taking it up, but this is not the strongest verse to defend that position. In context it is referring to an attitude of dominion rather than the dry mechanics of political power.

greglong said...

Very helpful.

I have been teaching through "The Biblical Distinctives of Baptists" in our Adult Bible Fellowship Group, and we have recently discussed Individual Soul Liberty (aka Freedom of Conscience) and Separation of Church and State. Some have said that these are "Baptists' (and Mennonites') gift to the world".

Anyway, I plan to refer my ABFG to these posts for further study.

JackW said...

Phil, this is spot on. Do you think that this also has application to church government and the authority of A pastor?

Johnny Dialectic said...

I completely agree with this whole series. Well done.

I'd be thrilled if America ever elected a president who really believed Scripture and followed its principles without compromise.

That would be something to see, since politics is all about the art of compromise. I wonder how that would actually work out in practice...

I also wonder about Frank's new picture. It's either a kindly professor inviting you into his study, or a barracuda awaiting prey.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ: "The problem, I believe, is the very thing Jesus highlighted in Matthew 20:25-28 the kingdom of God is ultimately not advanced by the flexing of political clout."

Excellent thought-provoking, soul-mulling points in this post and in this entire series.

Politicians, regardless of whether they're Christian or not, claim that they're civil servants, yes? The key word is the noun "servants". Naturally, a case could be made that usage of this term is Orwellian in nature, and it's a linguistic perversion.

But putting such cynicism aside, however realistic it may be, the ideal goal is to have politicians who are servant-leaders which is totally keeping in line with Matthew 20 and with Scripture as a whole.

I look back at the Old Testament. Even though Israel unwisely abandoned the system of judges, God did provide kings that exercised political power. What seems to me to be the key differentiator is the king's obedience to God as to whether Israel prospered or not. Not the fact that there was a king.

Could not the same line of reasoning be applied to today? It doesn't matter whether there are Christian politicians, or whether there are groups of Christians working together for cultural, social, and political reform under biblical guidelines. What's really key is that God is sovereign in these undertakings and that His followers believe that Jesus is Lord of all.

I write this not as a theonomist or as a Jewish zealot, but more likely as a response to the over-reaching conclusion that God's kingdom is not advanced by the flexing of political clout. I think historical evidence and reasoned argumentation would strongly argue against such a bold assertion.

Frank Turk said...

johnny:

it's a fat guy eating cheeseburgers at a picnic while his kids get really wet in the blow-up swimming pool.

Tim Brown said...

This series has been an encouragement to me. I tend to be the sort who wants to "fix it". I finally turned off all the Christian Activist radio programs because it was a constant barrage of guilt from "you gotta call so-and-so and complain or you'll lose your freedoms". Well, I don't see anywhere in the scriptures where God sent us to protect our own freedom.

My conviction is all that stuff is a demonic decoy from what we should be doing: Spreading the gospel.

I've been posting a few things recently at my blog about staying the biblical course, but this series blows my stuff away. Thanks Phil!

Johnny:

What's up with Frank's picture? Is his eyebrow broken? I've been sitting here for an hour, staring at it and it hasn't twitched once! (Kidding about the hour. . .!)

Tim Brown said...

Hey Phil!

I've posted links to your articles over at my place. Isn't it time for a BlogSpot?

(shameless plug).

Stan said...

I'm still puzzled. the more I read, the more I'm convinced that the only biblical and, therefore, moral thing for a Christian to do is not to be involved in any way with politics. It's not our venue.

But I can't seem to settle on that as a good thing.

Ed Groover said...

Phil,

Since your reply to me in the thread on the previous post, I've gone back and read what you've written, not just in this three post series, but in the posts leading up to it. I've also listened to the linked presentation you made on this subject at SC.

I agree with your general premise, that we ought to major on the Gospel. On the other hand, I think you overstate your case. It leaves the impression, as evidenced in the replies by Stan and Truth Unites & Divides, that being actively engaged in the political process is at best misguided and at worst in direct contradiction to living for Christ. Even though you make a couple of disclaimers to that impression, the sheer volume of your case against a politically active evangelicalism still forcefully says, "Christians get out of politics."

We SHOULD major on the Gospel and SHOULD NOT let political agendas drive our churches. On the other hand, just as God uses the means of preaching and witnessing to save those who are the called, does He not use the influence of godly men and women to affect good in government, business, education, etc.?

The Seeking Disciple said...

It's amazing to me that so many Christians forget the sovereignty of God even during tough political times. You don't find Paul urging for a political revolution in the Roman empire because of poor leadership from the Emperor. However, I hear many Christians saying that we need a Reagan revolution and that we need to pray for transformation of politics in Washington. While I agree to a degree, I believe so strongly that God is in control and that His Church best honours Him by preaching His Word and seeing lives transformed not by Congress or the House of Commons but by the grace of God.

Our duty is to make disciples and transform our culture through discipleship (Matthew 28:19-20; Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:23-25; 1 Peter 2:11-12).

Good post.

dac said...

Frank:

It's missing posters.

A Photo with the American flag is center stage of the sanctuary, with the comment underneath "When the Cross is just not enough"

David

Terry Rayburn said...

Phil,

Really excellent.

In the interest of clarifying or sorting out the players, picture a Dominionist tree with three main branches.

1. One branch is the Reconstructionists, who are typically Covenant Theology Calvinist guys with sharp minds who can debate the daylights out of you, but who have Old Covenant Law-based premises which very logically lead to wrong conclusions, not cutting straight the Word, and so not understanding the New Covenant and the spiritual Kingdom of God.

2. Another branch is the Political Moralist group who wield political radio and TV power to desperately try to hold a crumbling society together with the Scotch Tape of rallies, Congressional phone-ins, political threats, and general mean-mouthing of pagans who should stop acting like pagans and put the Ten Commandments on every street corner.

Their internal slogan (though they wouldn't admit it) is something like, "By political might and by political power, not by my Spirit, saith the Lord."

3. The other branch is the New Apostolic Reformation types, who seek to recapture the world for Christ, so that the poor Guy can finally return already.

They propose this by the development of a heirarchy of Christian Emperors and Empresses who presume to wield the power of God like witches and warlocks wield the powers of darkness.

They WILL have victory! They WILL transfer the wealth of the pagans to their coffers! They WILL conquer for Christ!

Some mean well, and some are just little signs and wonders Caesars and Caesaress's using Christ for power and money, and using crowds of unsuspecting "worshipers" to shout up their power meters.

All three of these types of Dominionists claim the Gospel, and many are sincere.

But none of them understand the power of the Gospel, nor the spiritual nature of the Kingdom. They seek instead an earthly Kingdom, and many times they don't even know it.

Mike Riccardi said...

Stan, Ed,

Maybe the confusion is coming from equating the concepts of individual Christians and the Church as an institution. If we understand that the Church's political involvement and the individual Christian's political involvement are two totally different things, maybe that will clear things up.

Daryl said...

Something (probably previously said) just occurred to me.

For all those who invoke the name of Wilberforce to reason that the church should be acting in the political arena, remember this:
Wilberforce wasn't a political lobbyist, he was a politician, along the lines of the non-compromising guy alluded to in the original post.
Seems to me that our political involvement should remain somewhere along those lines. We vote, we behave ourselves, and if we are politician, we make good laws, that's what politicians do.

If that's a problem, switch the example to, say, rodeo. Christian cowboys ride in the rodeo, that doesn't make rodeo something the church needs to get into, as a body.

Same with politics, if that's your job, do it well.

Minister's of the gospel, should...minister the gospel. It's what they do.

Steve Scott said...

Dominion, properly understood, is ruling over the earth - our own piece of it - and not over other people's pieces or private property, and not lording over other people.

Jesus taught us to pray for His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. As Christians, we desire righteousness to dwell on earth. Since the exercise of political power over other people is ungodly, a Christian involved in American politics, let's say, would do two main things: 1) his best to make sure no new laws are passed that grant political power to anybody over others and 2) his best to repeal all existing laws that give anybody political power over others.

eileen said...

Ed Groover:

Precisely so. It's not either/or but both/and. Already *and* Not Yet. We have dual citizenship in the Already as well as the Not Yet, and they both have responsibilities that come with citizenship.

Let's remember that, before the Evangelical Right came along, believers thought that they should be "apart" from the things of this world because they were reacting against the social activism of the liberal church.

I'm a cranky old lady, so I've observed that these things go in generational cycles due to the younger generation swinging to the opposite side to correct the excesses or errors of the older one.

Pastors should preach the gospel *and* speak prophetically to the moral issues so that the flock can exercise their stewardship of the vote in a biblical way. My pastor does that while being scrupulous about never mentioning parties or candidates.

Steve Scott said...

Phil,

Here's a way to enact Jesus' idea of servanthood rather than ruling over. Christians often whine about the child welfare system and the horrible taxation that fuels it. Instead of letting the state rule over foster kids and other welfare children, Christians could serve them by adopting all of them and raise them in the fear of the Lord, taking care of them instead of abusing them. This way, the state would have one less area to rule over people and God's kingdom would be advanced all the more.

Chad V. said...

Stan; there's nothing wrong with Christians being involved in politics.
Notice Acts 13:1;

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

Notice that Manaen is a high ranking government official in Herod's court and part of the church in Antioch.

Hayden said...

Phil,

Have you read Dr. Mohler's book "Culture Shift"? I think he does a good job explaining Augustine's City of God, descriptions.

steve said...

Frank without his eyebrow twitch? Say it ain't so!

That's like Rudolph without his red nose...Star Wars without Darth Vader...Brian McLaren without his so-called generous orthodoxy...

Chad V. said...

Stan, let me add that I understand your confusion. It's often hard for Christians to understand how they are to be in the world and not of the world. I think many of us struggle with that on different issues and in different ways.

Consider this, when the Centurion came to Christ he was not told to quit his commission(MAtt 8:5-13). When the Roman soldiers came to John the Baptist he told them to exercise their duties with equity, not to change professions (Luke 4:14).

Phil Johnson said...

Ed Groover: "It leaves the impression, as evidenced in the replies by Stan and Truth Unites & Divides, that being actively engaged in the political process is at best misguided and at worst in direct contradiction to living for Christ."

I'd take full responsibility for your confusion if the "impression" you say I have given you weren't flatly contradictory to several explicit statements I have made.

But let me try to clear it up with a parallel: My dad was a roofing contractor. That's a fine vocation for a Christian. It has its challenges, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with a Christian being a roofer, and if that is your calling, you have both my prayers and my blessings. I hope you will be the kind of roofing contractor my dad was: scrupulously honest, fair with his employees, and known for not spewing vile language and indulging in immoral behavior in a world where those things are the stock in trade.

If, however, you came along and tried to tell me it is the church's duty corporately to reform the injustices, bad business practices, and immorality that sometimes are associated with the roofing industry, I would tell you to let the dead bury the dead; and I would caution you about promoting activities that dilute the church's one message and dissuade her energies and resources away from what God has called her to do.

That's what this series is saying, and anyone who is still confused about it would do well to read the complete series again.

Plus, it is manifestly obvious that the evangelical wing of the church—whose identity and heritage (and even the derivation of that name) has everything to do with the gospel—has lost interest in the gospel over the past thirty years or so, and that trend is at least partly related to the increase in evangelical politicking that has been on the increase over that same period of time.

Anyway (to borrow a phrase from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones) that's the impression that I get.

donsands said...

"The most extreme remedy available to the church for punishing evildoers is excommunication."

And this is very rare in the Church today. Elders have a difficult time today, because people simply go to another church, or they may sue your local church.

Great series. May many read this and spread the word of how politics has been such a black eye for the body of Christ.
Time to reform.

dac said...

Poster idea #2

Picture of Dobson and Newt walking across a bridge

Underneath the phrase-

"it is permitted in time of grave danger to walk with the devil until you have crossed the bridge - Right?"

Ed Groover said...

Mike Riccardi - Ok. I get that. The Church corporate should not be involved in politics. I totally agree. Not our place. We're about the Gospel. First Baptist Church, for example, shouldn't endorse candidates or coordinate legislative agendas, etc.

Phil - So if I'm a politician by profession, vocation, calling, I as an individual Christian am okay by Scripture to be involved in politics...like Joseph or Daniel. But, if I'm only a citizen and not a professional politician, then it's wrong or unwise or counterproductive for me to do much of anything politically beyond voting? Am I accurately understanding your point?

Phil Johnson said...

Ed Groover: "Am I accurately understanding your point?"

No and frankly it sounds like you are trying hard not to. I said nothing like what you attribute to me.

Go back to the parallel I drew with a different activity. Could you reasonably conclude from what I said that I think it's a sin to do roofing unless you are doing it professionally and vocationally? Of course not.

If, on the other hand, you came into my Sunday school class and began recruiting roofing crews and telling everyone in my flock that as Christians they have a bounden duty to help change the world and advance the kingdom of Christ by putting roofs on people's homes, I would tell you you are off message and you need to rethink your strategy for advancing the kingdom.

Mike said...

"We'll see if any of the Emergent-friendlier pick up on this post, and what they'll say about it."

I'm not sure what that "Emergent-friendly" term means, but I'm fine with it. In fact, here's more ammunition: Luke 17:20:

The Kingdom of God comes without observation.

i.e., it's not observable.

Those in the Kingdom Now theology will have to reconcile that ref with having a visible world order ready for the second advent of the Lord.

Lilith said...

Mike: The Kingdom of God comes without observation.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

Carlo said...

Phil wrote: snip snip "If, however, you came along and tried to tell me it is the church's duty corporately to reform the injustices, bad business practices, and immorality that sometimes are associated with the roofing industry, I would tell you to let the dead bury the dead; and I would caution you about promoting activities that dilute the church's one message and dissuade her energies and resources away from what God has called her to do."

I don't think roofing is a good parallel to what you're trying to say with politics.

The point of laws is to regulate behavior which morality is - behavior. (Roofing does not regulate behavior). Because our nation is a republic, the means of regulating behavior is through the political process. (Actually, you would have to regulate bad practices in roofing through the political process by lobbying city/county/state officials to pass ordinances). The political process in a republic can never change hearts, and never will.

So far, I agree with all your three points.

I also agree with what you say about post-millenialists thinking they can usher the kingdom of God through political means. Of course, we can't usher the kingdom of God that way.

I don't really keep up with James Dobson so I can't say much there but I do appreciate organizations like the Family Research Council. Hopefully, non profit organizations like them and Christians who work in them have this motive in their heart, when it comes to the political process, regulate behavior like abortion and homosexual "marriages."

FRC to my understanding is non-profit organization, not a church organization.

Now here's an important issue and that is the growing cleavage of our understanding of the relationship between church and state. People who are not genuine Christians profoundly resent any legal imposition upon them on their lives by those motivated by a particular religious consideration. And they point to the Constitution that prohibits the establishment of a particular religion in the nation. And there are enormous fears as we see articulated every day that in these questions of moral issues the church is being mobilized to exercise a considerable power block that for religious reasons will take away their personal liberty.

Does this concern by unbelievers preclude us from being actively involved in politics (which I know you are not saying is wrong) and does this impede the gospel from being spread?

There are no quick blog answers to this and probably a thesis would be required to answer this question. As Christians we must continue to proclaim the gospel in word and the deeds through the witness of our lives.

And, as a separate issue, as long as our nation is a republic, I think as Christians we can also continue to urge the regulation of behavior like abortion and homosexual "marriages" through the political process.

Mike said...

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

Yet the light is without observation and not seen. And I am not the Kingdom of God.

I've seen a Comcast TV ad showing people exhibiting colorful lights. Those are observable.

Phil Johnson said...

Carlo: "I don't think roofing is a good parallel to what you're trying to say with politics."

Fine. Substitute any vocation you like. Police work, soldiering, lawyering, or filmmaking. All of those are valid vocations and activities for individual Christians. All of them have great potential for influencing our culture. But none of them is the business of the church as a body.

In fact, perhaps you are right: of all those categories, law enforcement and the military would be much closer parallels to politics than roofing. Would anyone suggest that these are areas where the church should seek to wield her collective influence and lead the battle against crime or perhaps even wage military campaigns against the encroachment of Islam on western culture?

That's not so far-fetched. It seems to me that the very same rationale that suggests Christians have some kind of collective duty to dominate the democratic political process could be used to argue in favor of a new crusade.

artfling said...

Let's not forget that the law points to the need for the gospel. Also as Christian citizens living in a constitutional republic, God has providentially placed a certain amount of power in our hands. The church then has the responsibility to equip us to best handle this power in a Christian sense--how to deal with our world by looking at it with a biblical worldview. They do this at least in part by a correct teaching of biblical law. This sheds a light on man's sin. Then as man hears the glorious truth of the gospel, he either responds to God, or hardens his heart. But yet, so much of what I see in the church is entertainment. How can we receive the love of God's forgiveness, if we do not understand the mess we have made of his holy law? Please help correct me if I have erred here.

Wes ("Theophilus") Walker said...

[I must confess that I read ahead on the Grace to You site.]

Thanks for a theme worth reminding us about.

A (principally) political solution to society's ills is just "off-message" as the so-called social-gospel approach. Doing the lesser (political or social work) is no excuse to avoid doing the greater work of proclaiming the Gospel.

Is our hope ultimately in our effort to modify behaviour, or God's ability to transform hearts? i.e. "The Bible or the Bayonette?" (I think that was de Toqueville.)

This dovetails with a beautiful quote I read last week, attributed, strangely enough, to Napoleon. He draws sharp contrast between human empires founded on force and Christ's Kingdom, founded on love. This, the loving devotion of the Christian, he ultimately cites as an evidence of Christ's divinity.

It's too long to quote verbatim here. I've posted the quote on my site, if anyone wants to see the whole thing.

Lilith said...

Mike: Yet the light is without observation and not seen. And I am not the Kingdom of God.

But the Kingdom of God is within you (according to the verse that follows the one you cited about non-observation). So to be a light and a city on a hill, one must express the Kingdom through good works and preaching, not merely a show of power. This makes the Kingdom non-observable to those who focus on power, yet makes it present to those who have need of a Savior.

Mike said...

lilith:
Compare verse 21 (you made reference to) with the first part of verse 20: And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the Kingdom of God should come, he answered and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

Verse 21: Neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, lo, here! for, behold,the kingdom of God is within you.

Analogous with the above is this: John 3:8

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Being the light is not anymore visible than the sound of the wind. And it's not always equated with the kingdom of God. My point is that though there be some light around here, the kingdom of God (not people) will not be visible to all.

Mike said...

And the reference is to the physical visibility of the Kingdom, not spiritual.

Lilith said...

Mike: My point is that though there be some light around here, the kingdom of God (not people) will not be visible to all.

Indeed, Christ says it will be visible only to the justified:

John 3:3 ...Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Ed Groover said...

Phil said: If, on the other hand, you came into my Sunday school class and began recruiting roofing crews and telling everyone in my flock that as Christians they have a bounden duty to help change the world and advance the kingdom of Christ by putting roofs on people's homes, I would tell you you are off message and you need to rethink your strategy for advancing the kingdom.

No, I've not purposely misunderstood you. The more you explain, the more you confirm that you believe that Christians are on the wrong track to be politically involved.

Maybe there are some churches or Christians who think that they are advancing the cause of Christ by political activity. You point to theonomists, for example. I just don't see this as the motivation or expectation of the majority of conservative evangelicals. We are under no illusions that we are going to change people's hearts or bring in the kingdom through the political process. But we have every reason to see to it that our values are reflected in the nation's laws and that public behavior is restrained in the direction of good and wholesomeness.

If you were warning us not to get out of balance in allowing our political involvement to consume out thoughts and time, I'd applaud that. If you were exhorting us to evangelism, I'd applaud that. But I don't agree with causing Christians to believe that it's wrong to be politically involved and that they shouldn't join with fellow citizens who agree with them on questions of values and culture to mutually advance those interests in the public arena.

It's probably time for me to be finished commenting on this subject. Happy writing.

Mike Riccardi said...

Ed,

I'm still only a spectator here, but I don't think Phil can say any more plainly than he has that he's not discouraging political involvement for individual Christians. He has been discouraging political involvement as a thing on the Church's agenda. You said you got that point, but it's painfully obvious you haven't.

We are under no illusions that we are going to change people's hearts or bring in the kingdom through the political process.

As far as that goes, you're either naive or severely under-informed. I'd say there's been a powerful illusion for a long time that that's exactly how the kingdom's gonna get here.

Stan said...

Phil, maybe, when you're all done with this (very good) series on what we are not supposed to do with politics, you might suggest what is a proper Christian approach to a republic. Just an idea ... you know, a follow on, a clarification.

Mike said...

lilith
Indeed, Christ says it will be visible only to the justified:

John 3:3 ...Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.


Close enough, but again, I'm talking about the physical manifestation of the kingdom, not spiritual.

Chad V. said...

Ed Groover

I don't recall Phil ever saying that Christians shouldn't be politically involved. In fact he's repeatedly asserted the opposite. You may have missed him saying so but his son is a police officer.

There are huge swathes of professing Christians who think that we can somehow Christianize society. The late D. James Kennedy was constantly talking about reclaiming America for Christ which is a silly notion in the first place. America never was a Christian nation and it was never supposed to be. It was founded on religious freedom. Christianity was to be freely practiced along with other religions without interference from the government. The founding documents mention God and the creator but the name of Christ is conspicuous for it's absence. The bible was the source of many of the country's laws and government architecture but that doesn't make it a Christian country. Indeed many of the founding fathers were true Christians, but many were deists and many were Roman Catholic. It wasn't uniquely Christian. And the gospel has never had wide friendly acceptance. Read any number of writings from any pastors through history you see the same thing. Morals have always been corrupt, people are resistant to the gospel and Christ is publicly maligned and mocked by the masses. It has always been that way throughout history and the bible promises that it will remain so. If we follow Christ we are guaranteed to suffer persecutions of some sort from the world.

In Jonanthan Edwards Religious Affections he wrote of how the great sins in his town were drunkenness, fornication and Sabbath breaking. Today the most obvious public sins include all of those but added to them are abortion and homosexuality and divorce.

There tons of people who think the old days were better and they try to reclaim those days in the name of Christ. The old days were never better, just different.

Lilith said...

Chad v.: The founding documents mention God and the creator but the name of Christ is conspicuous for it's absence.

The only founding document I can think of which mentions God is the Declaration of Independence, which was more of a rebel manifesto than a foundation of civil law. The Q'u'r'a'n and the Book of Mormon mention God. The television show "Touched by an Angel" mentioned God all the time, and the angels kept telling people to get right with God, and it was called a "Christian show" but it was funny how they never mentioned Jesus Christ at all.

Chad V. said...

You're right LIlith. Only the Declaration of Independence ever mentions either God or the Creator, never the name of Christ. It's a deliberately ecumenical statement. So that sort of makes my point. It is a myth to think that America was ever actually a Christian nation. It never was and it never will be. In fact there has never been a truly Christian nation on the face of the earth.

If people got all the laws changed in America to line up with all of God's commands, you still wouldn't have a Christian nation. You'd just have restrained wickedness. Christians aren't called to make Christian nations on the earth. Satan is the god of this world(2 Cor4:4) and he blinds men to the gospel.

The church's job is to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations in the name of Christ(Luke 24:47). Not make nations in the name of Christ.

Funny that you mentioned Touched by an Angel. That show was about as Christian as the Pope.

Mike said...

Who do you all think Jesus Christ is? ;)

Daryl said...

Elijah??? Or one of the prophets???

Chad V. said...

Let me add to my previous statements that I do recognize and am very thankful that the government was founded on precepts taught in the bible and that the gospel was preached without government interference at the time of the founding of our nation. To be sure our country enjoyed many blessings because on some level the nation recognized that God was the creator and that our laws and rights come from him and he is to be glorified. Congressmen would open sessions and pray according to their convictions. If a congressman was a Christian he could pray in the name of Christ without fear of reprisal. But that is no longer the case.

I have no problem with the concept that America was founded on Christian principles, or Judeo-Christian values. That's a perfectly true and legitimate statement. I also recognize that many of the founding fathers desired to see the Christian religion flourish in America because of the liberty it would enjoy. My beef is with trying to say that we are a Christian nation.

In order for a country to be a Christian country truly, that nation would, like the local church, have to punish and strive against all false doctrines and silence the voices of those would teach falsehood. The religious freedom that our constitution maintains prohibits this kind of thing from happening. Men may practice any religion they like freely and without persecution from the government. They are not limited to being biblical Christians. So America fails the test of being a distinctly Christian nation.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"As faithful citizens, Catholics are called to bring our laws regarding marriage into conformity with what we know about the nature of marriage," said Bishop Allen Vigneron, head of the Oakland Diocese.

"Shaping the social order is not outside the role of a bishop," said Father Mark Weisner.


Agree or disagree?

From: Bishop exhorts East Bay Catholics to defeat gay marriage

Chad V. said...

TRUAD;

Let me begin my answer with this; the Roman Catholic Church is no church at all. It is a false religion. It is not Christian and I firmly believe that the Pope is the Anti-Christ. R.C. Bishops do not order themselves according to the mind of Christ and the entire R.C. Church is ordered according to the traditions of men.

If an R.C. Bishop wants to actively seek to conform the laws of the land to what he believes Catholic doctrine commands that's his business. The only standard by which we can judge the statement; "Shaping the social order is not outside the role of a bishop", is to measure that statement according the Roman Catholic Catechism. If the Catholic Catechism and the doctrines of the R.C. Church and the decrees of the Pope mandate that the Bishops seek to shape social order then that's what they're supposed to do.

Father Weisner's comment has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not the Church is to make social reform a priority of the church.

The fact of the matter is that social reform is all that Father Weisner has. He has no gospel to preach.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Chad V.,

Your thoughts on the Catholic Church are duly noted by this non-RC. Any further discussion of the RCC would be off-topic.

So, let me proffer a non-RC bishop's thoughts on his political involvement:

"Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I welcome the ruling of the California Supreme Court affirming the fundamental right of all people to marry. I am writing to you now to recommend a path to use this decision to strengthen our support of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered sisters and brothers, and our continued witness to God’s inclusive love.

...

I urge Episcopalians, clergy and lay, to volunteer as Deputy Marriage Commissioners. There are over 4,000 civil same-sex marriages planned in a short period of time in the city of San Francisco alone and the city is asking for help in meeting demand. I intend to volunteer for this at my earliest opportunity. This would be one sign of affirmation for the Supreme Court ruling from our diocese.

...

In the coming days, I will publicly state my opposition to the initiative to overturn the Supreme Court ruling."

From: Pastoral Letter Regarding Same-sex Marriage

Chad V. said...

TRUAD;

Then why did bring the RCC into the discussion in the first place?
You're the one who asked me to agree or disagree about a statement regarding an RCC bishop and his role in influencing the culture.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Because many Christians from a variety of faith-traditions do regard the RCC as a church even though they may disagree with many of its doctrines.

There's no way that I could know that you would quibble about whether RCC is a church.

Now that I'm aware of it, I simply point you to a Protestant church bishop.

Chad V. said...

Quibble???!!!

Am I to understand that you are one of the many Christians who regard the RCC as a Christian church?

Also, the only other quotes I see from you are form bishops, I assume these are quotes form bishops, in support of gay marriage.

Gay marriage is an abomination. No one in support of this practice has any right to call himself a Christian.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Chad V,

Your ability to miss the major point by focusing instead on the superfluous is increasing.

The topic of this thread is to explore or define the limits of what constitutes God-honoring, Christ-glorifying engagement in the domain of civil government and politics.

I merely cite the example of one Catholic bishop with regards to the topic of timely topic of gay marriage. You quibble over whether the RCC is a church.

Fine. So I then provide an example of a liberal self-identified Christian who supports gay marriage. You then say that any self-identified Christian who supports gay marriage is not a Christian. Again, you're focusing upon an irrelevant-to-the-main-point detail.

General Main Point: What constitutes biblical civic engagement in the political process for Christians?

To put specifics towards exploring a helpful answer to this question, I offer up the timely example of the legalization of gay marriage.

Therefore Chad V., in your opinion, what constitutes acceptable political behavior by Christians on the issue of gay marriage such that you would not rise in angry judgmentalism towards your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?

Chad V. said...

TRUAD
Quibble???!!! Superfluous????!!!!! Missed the point????!!!!

Daryl said...

Chad:

"TRUAD
Quibble???!!! Superfluous????!!!!! Missed the point????!!!!"


Ummmmm...yes, completely and utterly.

Chad V. said...

My last comment on this string;

TRUAD said; "General Main Point: What constitutes biblical civic engagement in the political process for Christians?"

He then proceeds to give examples of statements from the RCC and the Episcopalian church. Neither qualifies as a biblical church. Neither preaches the gospel. Neither believes in justification by faith alone in Christ alone. Neither accepts the scriptures as their sole authority on all matters of faith and practice.

The examples can't be applied to a discussion about biblical civil engagement. Neither example represents the church and how it engages civil government. They both represent false religion, in fact they are both false religions hence they have no bearing on the discussion at hand. You might as well ask me to interact with quotes from the Moonies.

The point of the post is the church's job is to preach the gospel, not work for social reform. Neither the RCC or the Episcopalians preach the gospel in the first place.

TRUAD's question ignores the thesis of the post and forces anyone who tries to answer his question to acknowledge those who teach lies as true brethren.

So, the only one who has missed the point is TRUAD and possibly you Daryl.

Chad V. said...

An addendum;

TRUAD also said; "The topic of this thread is to explore or define the limits of what constitutes God-honoring, Christ-glorifying engagement in the domain of civil government and politics."

That's why you missed the point. By definition no one who denies the gospel (RCC/Episcopal Church) can do anything Christ-glorifying. What ever is not of faith is sin (cf Rom 14:23).

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Chad V.,

Let not quarrel anymore.

Pax.

Chad V. said...

Agreed.