Briefly today, (no, seriously) I wanted to say something about idolatry.
I was the last man out that my bookstore yesterday, and as I was locking up I started praying about God's provision for me and my family. I don't know about you, but my kids are brilliant and healthy, my wife is brilliant and loving, and frankly we have never spent a day without a meal or a roof over our heads. That's not bragging: that's just what it is, and I know that some of our readers may have had parts of their lives which have not been so fortunate.
Those readers probably know something the rest of us don't know -- because the rest of us live in what can only be called ridiculously-opulent wealth. Most of us don't consider ourselves "rich" -- because we compare what we have to what the top 5% of Americans make and have, and we see our lives as quite modest compared to people with multiple, gigantic houses and so on.
But you know something: when we are in danger of losing what we have in this life -- for example, because our employer has a business model that's not expanding and what we do is in danger of being "right-sized" -- I think many of us are afraid that God doesn't love us anymore even though we have more wealth and more opportunity for wealth than 99% of all people who ever lived.
When our hope lies in money or in some job in particular, we are idolators. And while it is a wholly-biblical axiom that if you don't work, you don't eat, our hope for our provision shouldn't come from some job or career. God is still God when you have to find a new job. Some trust in chariots, some trust in paychecks. We trust in the name of the Lord our God. Please, God: don't let the one we trust have an "Inc." at the end of His name.
I'm as-guilty of this stuff as anyone, so consider this a protestant act of confession.
Just in case you think I forgot about the God and Politics stuff, I haven't. But last week, Dr. John Piper podcasted a little something that was relevant to that topic, and I was edified by it. My edification, btw, came not from his clarity and simplicity but from his own admission, as you can read below, that this is a very difficult ball of twine to untangle:
Bob Allen: Should we try to legislate the Bible in today's society?
Dr. Piper: It's not inappropriate to seek to apply the Bible, provided that we apply it wisely. And the wisdom lies in realizing that—since coerced faith and coerced obedience are unbiblical—the Bible itself provides the guidance and the ground for making space for a culture in which people have the right to choose which moral elements they will or will not obey. It sound almost contradictory. In other words, the Bible insists that there must not be coercion for every single moral command that it contains.
For example, "Thou shalt not covet." Are you going to make that into a law? No, because coerced non-coveting won't work. It's a self-contradiction. It's the same thing with belief in Jesus. The Bible clearly commands, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Should we turn that moral religious command into a moral law? No, because a law-constrained faith in Jesus is unbiblical and has no validity. Therefore, in a sense, the Bible shows that we should not turn all of its commands into law.
So your question boils down to, Well, which ones then?
Don't kill? - We all agree on that one. Make that a law.
Don't steal? - We all agree on that one. Make that a law.
Don't commit adultery? - Hmm. Now what about that one?
Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy? - We used to have laws about that.
The way it works practically is that for the laws where we can get overwhelming consensus in the culture we're going to use coercion. The irony is that we believe in using coercion as a culture for the things that don't seem to matter very much. For example, I've got to get all the dog poop out of my back yard or I'm going to get cited, and coercion will be used to make me cut my grass or clean my yard. And yet, we can't use coercion legally to save a baby's life if he is still in the womb.
What we need to do is find those things in the Bible that we believe should be lived by, and then try as Christians—through preaching, teaching, and prayer—to bring about as much consensus as we can. And yet we will not press for the legislating of things where there is massive unwillingness to do it, because we would wind up making coercion the ground of our morality.