Tuesday, September 22, 2015
The Christian, The Constitution, and The Culture
Brad Littlejohn has posted a interest article here that I think is very much worth the read. He does an excellent job of pointing out some of the issues I have called out a few times myself when it comes to the glaring inconsistency among some “culture-warrior” Christians and the outright hypocrisy of others. I suggest you read the post and think very carefully about the points he makes.
Christians clearly run the risk of hypocrisy these days by appearing to adopt certain pet causes and then allowing their passion for those causes to drive them to rally and in some cases manipulate others to rally around those causes, sometimes even to the point of creating sinful rifts in the body of Christ solely because others do not share in their “unbalanced” passion or perhaps the tactics they use to demonstrate that passion. When our passions interfere with how we handle the biblical text and with relationships in the body, it only makes sense to push the pause button and ponder our heart’s true motivation. Some people are willing to divide the body, use offensive images or language all in the name of their cause, while claiming that their motivation is love for God and for neighbor. The irony and hypocrisy is impossible to miss, both for observers within and outside the Church. Whatever approach we take to oppose ungodly injustice in the world, in the society, and in the culture, we must be consistent. The perfect example is Kim Davis. Christians rally around her stand against issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, even holding her out as a model Christian standing for truth. However, if Kim Davis confesses the Apostolic Pentecostal faith, then she by no means can be received as a true believer. That confession denies the Triune God of Scripture, endorses a works-based soteriology, and holds to some of the most egregious legalism known among some of these practice pseudo-Christian cults. What is worse is that sound Christians are willing to wink at Kim’s confessions about Christ and Christianity simply because she has apparently the same pet cause that they do. And that is not just regrettable, it is sinful. How can we tolerate the most egregious heresies simply because we share the same disdain for a particular sexual immorality? There is no justification for such behavior.
Let’s look at our most recent example as our case study. Some Christian leaders have supported Kim Davis by claiming that as a civil magistrate, she is duty bound by the law and the Scriptures, to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. These arguments begin, not with Scripture, but with the constitution. The notion that the civil magistrate somehow has God’s blessing to rebel against the greater magistrate when the greater magistrate is playing the tyrant is closely connected to the egregious doctrine of the lesser magistrate invented about 500 years ago. This doctrine created and employed to justify violence during the 16th century. However, Scripture is clear in its instructions. The Christian is told to submit to civil government and this applies to the lesser Christian magistrate as much as it does to the non-magistrate. We submit to the point that that law we are obligated to obey demands that we sin. At that point we flee or we suffer. But there is no middle ground. We do not take up arms nor do we engage in civil disobedience. Some will point to the constitution and claim that this document provides the authority we need to behave in such practices. But the Christian has to ask if that document was even legal to begin with when placed under the microscope of Scripture. Where did Scripture give America the right to refuse to pay her taxes? Did this right come from Christian principles? Apparently Jesus would have clearly held a very difference opinion. Did America, the Christian nation, have a right to even spring into existence according to the law of Scripture? Did not Scripture inform the attitudes and actions of the founders? What principle of Scripture were the founders operating on when they rejected the King? From the very beginning of her independence, America rebelled against the clear mandate of Scripture when it came to submitting to the civil magistrate. I speak as a Christian, not as an unregenerate American that prizes independence even above obedience.
Flee from persecution and oppression, yes! But to fight and shed blood for it is never endorsed by Scripture and could never be justified by any appeal to the sacred text, at least not without doing tremendous exegetical violence! It is the Scripture alone, not the constitution and not the constitution with Scripture, that serves as our final authority for life.
The Christian is called out of this present world, out of this culture, out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light. We are in the world, but not of the world. We are to shine the light of the gospel into a very dark world. I cannot help but wonder what the world sees when we take up our pet causes, elevate them above other causes, and then attempt to force the world to live according to our morality by way of the legislative process. Take the gay marriage issue once more. What example has the Church offered the world of God’s design for marriage? What is the divorce rate among those professing to be followers of Christ? More importantly than a high divorce rate (29% among Baptists), is the fact that the Church does nothing about it. We claim that we are serious about God’s design for marriage but that only seems to be true when it comes to gay marriage, not illicit, unjustified divorce. How many Christians have, on the one hand wrongly divorced a spouse, while at the same time standing in judgment of gay marriage because it violates Scripture? The image is a mockery of the Christian standard and an embarrassment to Christians everywhere. How can we shine our light on the wicked deeds of homosexual marriage when we wink at supposedly fellow Christians who ignore the divine mandate no less than the gay community? It is tragic to say the least.
This is of course, the symptom of a much larger problem in American Evangelicalism. And that is the problem of Sacralism. Sacralism is the confluence of the church and the state where one is called upon to change the other. It is the product of what has become known in church history as the Constantinian shift. One blogger points to three key distinctive concepts that we should all become familiar with, intimately familiar with: 1. The confluence of church and state wherein one is called upon to change the other. 2. The sanctification of culture. A theological monism viewing the Church, State, and Culture as Kingdom of God on earth. 3. The body of Christ defined by a combining of Ecclesial, Political, and Cultural Forms. For some time now, American Christians have bought into the lie of a religious Christian nationalism. America has been described as a “Christian” nation, founded from the beginning on basic Christian principles. Christians feel that America is betraying the Christian faith, in danger of apostatizing. Hence, they feel compelled to call for and pray for a revival. I must confess that I have always found the call for revival confusing. America is not a Christian nation, never has been, never will be. There is NO such thing as a Christian nation, never has been, never will be. Christians are members in the Kingdom of the Son, and only in the Kingdom of the Son. America, like every other heathen nation on earth is in the Kingdom of Darkness. Our citizenship is in heaven, not on earth. Our responsibilities are spelled out by the gospels and epistles that followed them. God has graciously provided us with clear instructions on the nature of our relationship to the state and to this present evil age. The time has passed for American Christians to wake up and realize where our loyalties reside. No man can serve two masters!