Posted in politics

Limitations, Authority and Politics: Q3

Question 3:

Is it right to preach politics from the pulpit?

Answer:

If we were to take a public consensus on this subject, what do you think we would find? More than likely the world (i.e., society and current culture) will say “NO,” because that would be bringing “religion into the public sphere…and we just can’t have that.” Peel a few layers off of that onion and what you would really find lurking underneath is an “off-limits” sign placed against religious interference. “we don’t want your judgments influencing our behavior.” Religion, in particular Christianity, is often viewed as way too judgmental.

Ironically, if we interviewed those who profess to be Christians, we would find that their answer regarding the above question does not stray too far afield from public opinion (As Seen in a Recent Polling Example at Pew Research). Interesting, since Christians are those who should be influencing the surrounding culture/society, not the other way around…but…I get ahead of myself. Perhaps, at this juncture we would be better served by defining what “politics” are before we address the question as presented.

Defining our Terms…

According to the American Heritage Dictionary the term “politics” (noun) speaks about “the art or science of government or governing.”[i] Sounds like your basic boring definition that does little in shedding light on the subject at hand. At best, all we see is a reference to governing and/or government but the adjectival use of the word does help enlightening our understanding a bit. Used as an adjective “politics” is defined as, ““shrewd, artful, prudent, judicious.”[ii] Now if you take the time to look up those four words you will find that they speak of being wise/cunning in acting and/or judging matters (cf. Matt 10.16) affecting life.

Therefore, Politics is concerned about policies in the public sphere. Politics deal with matters of morality. It speaks of a governing body that rules in terms of justice in the public sphere; derived from ethical norms (i.e., laws, statutes, principles, etc.). The people that represent the civil government are therefore identified as politicians.[iii] Politicians and/or civil magistrates, consequently, are meant to be protectors of the people not enslavers.

A Dose of Reality…

Not too long ago, during breakfast at Frisch’s Big Boy, a family member made the following indirect question “why is there so much evil in the world?” This volley ball serve of an inquiry was in response to some of the criminal activity being witnessed in the world through various media outlets. The answer is rather simple, “We live in a fallen world.”

Like the .25$ slime you could buy at a vending machine on the way out of a grocery store, that answer sticks. However, because it is uncomely to sensible thought, it is constantly being wiped at to remove it. The thing is people are sinners, and while that fact might be troublesome to some of you, if we are honest and unafraid to own up to it, we can admit that there are many things that we have done in our lives we know to be wrong. Yet, we chose to do them in spite of the knowledge that said we shouldn’t.

Now if this is true of you and me, and it is, then what of those who serve in public office? What about those who deal in the sphere of public affairs? Those ruling members of our society that eagerly seek to (and most of the time do) invent policy to govern the people.  Wickedness begets wickedness. Sinful hearts produce sinful activity. What is true of the common individual is likewise true of those in political leadership. I’m sure you’ve heard or at least thought that politics is dirty business. But what do you do when something is dirty? The short answer is you clean it up.

Where Should We Go…

Now the question of the day is should we see Christian preachers speaking on various political issues? Should we see Christian ministers proclaiming certain truths pertaining to the affairs of public life? Is it right to preach politics from the pulpit?

There are a few rabbit trails that we could travel down in discussing this question. I know because I’ve written and rewritten this material more than once, and my mind races in several directions all at once. Truly there are several branches of thought that we could deal with specifically in addressing politics and religion, and whether or not one should use their religious viewpoints to influence the ebb and flow of societal governance—i.e., the exercise of cultural mores. Perhaps, in the future we can get down to specifics, but for the time being let’s just deal with the overarching truth.

All political thought is driven by religious zeal. Not every political thought is driven by the Christian religion. However, here in the United States our governing bodies were established upon biblical precepts and statutes. Revisionists might cry until their eyes are puffy and their faces have broken vessels all about, but the truth of our early American roots is thoroughly influenced by the Christian worldview.

(This is not to say that every act, every policy, or every political maneuver has been consistently driven by this worldview. An honest review of history sheds some embarrassing light on this. But this does not remove the driving force behind our past leaders.)

Keep in Mind who I’m Speaking to…

Primarily, this message that I am about to give is for the Christian. Those who profess to be faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. The key word in that phrase is the title “Lord.”

Already we have seen that necessary limitations have been set since the beginning. The Proverbs declare that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov 14.12). If we learn nothing else from our fore-parents (Adam and Eve), then it ought to be this truth.

For the Christian we know that in order to be able to set limitations, authority must be had by the limiter. Christ Jesus demonstrated His authority over all by laying down His life and taking it up again. No one took it from Him, He gave it freely for His people. His holiness and righteous life paid the penalty for our sin. Therefore, He has revealed Himself as our Head, and the Husband of the Bride; which is the Church. Remember the true Church of Jesus Christ is not a building, not a denomination, nor truly divided by a branch of theology…it is the people who are called by His Name that are the Church.

Zone of Authority…

When we think of government, we tend to think of it in the civil sphere—i.e. civil government (here in America we see it at the local, state and federal levels).  But there are other governing bodies that God has created. We have the government of the Family, the government of the Church, included with the government of the State. And we must not forget that there is also self-imposed governing. We are told to govern our lives, to stop sinning, choosing instead the paths of holy righteousness. Doing right and refraining from doing wrong. Being humble and not puffed up with pride. Loving rather than hating.

What then is Jesus’ zone of authority? Is it limited to the Church? If you buy into the “two-kingdoms theory” popular in many Christian circles, then you will see a necessary divide between the secular (public/political) and ecclesiastical (church/private) spheres. This is an example of a false dichotomy. No such divide exists, except in the minds of mankind. God’s Word contains no boundaries in relation to Christ Jesus.

One of the things that got the apostles in trouble in the Roman world was that they professed “another king, Jesus” over and above “the decrees of Caesar” (Acts 17.7). This was not limited to a private faith, but included the public sphere. For the Christian faith “advocate[s] customs” that are contrary to pagan culture (Acts 16.21). In short, contrary to public opinion within today’s Christian community, the apostles did address political issues of their day. They advocated a way of life that was counter-cultural. And while it might be appropriately argued that it started with individual hearts (personal governance), this naturally seeps into the other governing bodies established by God—i.e., family, church, and state.

Source of the Teaching…

Though Christ Jesus is said to have been made lower than the angels for a time (Heb 2.7, 9), He was still equal with God the Father (John 5.18; 10.30). While the incarnation—Jesus, the Living Word putting on flesh (John 1.14)—was an act of humility by taking on the form of a slave (Phil 2.7), His status remained in the form of God (Phil 2.6).

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1.15-17; emphasis added).

Please notice the authority Jesus has over all things. That phrase is repeated several times. What do you suppose all things means? ALL THINGS.

Jesus declared,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28.18b).

All authority, means all things, which is why we see the phrase “in heaven and on earth.” There is no limitation on the sphere of Christ’s authority. No realm of human existence that is beyond His authority. He is Lord over all…drum roll, including POLITICS. For the civil sphere of governance was created (established) by Him. So that the civil ruler might serve as His minister (deacon) to punish evil and uphold the good (cf. Rom 13.1-7).

So, the answer to the question of whether or not it is right to preach politics from the pulpit is YES.[iv] In fact, you would be hard pressed to proclaim the Word of God at all if you did not do so. The Bible speaks on many subjects, but one of particular interest to the Lord God is in righteous living. Makes sense when you consider mankind’s image bearing status.

I will close with a couple sobering thoughts:

“Too often Christians limit the effects of the saving work of Jesus Christ. We are willing to turn to Jesus Christ and entrust Him with our eternal destiny but we are often unwilling to submit to His instructions concerning the affairs of this world.”[v]

“Men may be induced to abandon their old religion and to adopt a new one; but they can never remain long free from all religion. Take away one object of worship and they will soon attach themselves to another. If unhappily they lose the knowledge of the true God, they will set up gods of their own invention or receive them from others’ (Archibald Alexander…p. 18).”[vi]

If the Christian will not speak authoritatively in the public sphere (politically), either out of fear or obstinate refusal, then nothing less than tyranny should be expected.


ENDNOTES:

[i] “politic,” s.v., The American Heritage Dictionary, 4th edition (New York, NY: Bantam Dell, 2007), 651.

[ii] Ibid., 651.

[iii] Ibid., 651. An accurate definition is “1) One actively involved in politics. 2) One who holds or seeks a political office.”

[iv] “The Bible never condemns political involvement…The desire to retreat from political concerns is mostly a recent phenomenon.” Gary DeMar, Myths, Lies & Half Truths: How Misreading the Bible Neutralizes Christians (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2004), 132, 133. Respectively

[v] Gary DeMar, God and Government: Issues in Biblical Perspective, Vol 2 (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2001), x.

[vi] “From an engraving in ‘Evidences of the Authenticity, Inspiration and Canonical Authority of the Holy Scriptures’” (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian Board of Publications, 1836), quoted in DeMar, God and Government, vol 2, 4; Cf. 243.

Posted in Headship

Limitations, Authority and Politics: Q2

Question 2:

Who has the authority to place the limitations?

Answer:

Rather than build up to the obvious answer I’ll just give it to you at the forefront. If the Church is Christ’s workmanship, if it was His righteous and holy life that purchased us and set us apart, then it makes perfect sense that He has the authority and power to set the limits of His Church’s activity.

To explain this the Bible appeals to a couple different analogies to draw this truth out. The first is in reference to Christ being the head. The second speaks of the Church as His beloved bride. Both references are uniquely tied to one another.

The Head…

From a practical standpoint the body is controlled by (ruled by) the Head. This is true of voluntary and non-voluntary responses. In our human bodies the head (brain/central nervous system) keeps life sustainable from breathing (lungs), blood flow (heart), temperature regulation, metabolism, and protective reflexes like attempting to stop a fall by putting out a hand or batting an eyelash closed when debris is incoming. Our ability to move (hands and fingers, feet and toes, etc.)  seeing and hearing to process information, feel with touch and emotion, tasting the goodness of life while also drawing in pleasing fragrances are all controlled aspects of the body by the head. Each part of the body is vitally important (although some to lesser degrees of honor than others—i.e., fingernail versus eyeball), but without the head are utterly useless. Life is sustained by the head. Life is preserved by the head. Life is made meaningful by the head.

Jesus Christ is called the Head of His body, the Church:

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ…” (1Cor 11.3a).

“And [God the Father] put all things under his feet and gave him [Jesus Christ] as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1.22-23).

“Rather, speaking truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph 4.15-16).

“…Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (Eph 5.23b).

Therefore, the Head has authority to set the limits on the body to which it is attached.

The Husband…

In a similar way, Christ is identified as the Husband of the Bride—His Church. This analogous union between Christ and His people (the saints/children of God) is called a mystery (Eph 5.32) that has been revealed in this time at the advent and ascension of Him (Rom 16.25; Eph 1.9; Col 1.26-27) who sits at the Father’s right hand (Acts 2.33; Heb 10.12). Given our current feminist driven culture the meaning of Christ as the Husband of the Bride—His Church—will be somewhat skewed.

For Scripture reveals that just as the bride is under the husband, Jesus Christ shares this unique relationship with His people (Eph 5.23). Am I then saying that the husband has authority over his wife? Yes, for that is what the Scriptures teach. Though man and woman are equal before God in status as image bearers (Gen 1.27), the man is called the head of his wife:

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1Cor 11.3; italics added).

This a functional headship where the role of the husband in the home is leadership. The husband has authority because it is God-given not because he lords over his wife. Which is stressed in another place:

“For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man” (1Cor 11.8-9).

Again, this an issue of function and not status. As Paul explains a little later “…all things are from God” (1Cor 11.12). Both men and women share equality in this sense as image bearers, but are not equal in authority, roles, and responsibility. Like I said, not a particularly easy concept to convey in our feminist driven society. For such teaching will be taken as highly offensive. However, the reason “…why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head…” (the covering is symbolic of her husband) is “because of the angels [messengers]” (1Cor 11.10). The Greek term translated angels here is actually messengers, thus the bracketed section. A messenger from God conveys God’s will, His Word.

This, in light of the reference to the creation of the woman in vv. 8-9 (cf. Gen 2.21-25), signifies the responsibility that Adam had towards Eve in giving her God’s instruction (ff. Gen 2.16-17), which he failed to do. Instead of protecting his wife by standing firm upon God’s Word, the Lord indicts Adam for listening to his wife’s word instead (ff. Gen 2.17). Something that should not have been done for he had been given the role of authority as her head and was responsible for not keeping it.

What Jesus Christ did for His bride—the Church—was what Adam ought to have done. For the trustworthy Husband lays down (sacrifices) Himself for His bride:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by washing her of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy without blemish” (Eph 5.25-27).

By so honoring His wife Jesus demonstrates how greatly He loves, how much he desires to nourish and cherish her (see 5.28-29). And the wife or the Bride of Christ displays her love for the Lord by submitting to her husband (Eph 5.24). What is true of the human marriage out to be true in a greater sense with this supernatural union between Christ and His people. The bond of love, of deepest intimacy is meant here not some perverted notion that fools have been known to utter.

Therefore, the Husband has authority to set the limits of His bride’s (the Church’s) activity.

Response to question 3 forthcoming…


Image by <a href=”http://Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay“>Pete Linforth

Posted in Musings

Limitations, Authority and Politics: Q1

Question 1:

What limitations does the Church of Jesus Christ have on it?

Answer 1a:

Think for a moment about what a limitation is. It is a restriction. It is a no trespassing sign. Since our creation God has placed “limits” on what we are to do as creatures. The first examples we are given is found in the beginning.

  • God taught the man what was good. He taught that we are communal creatures. He placed specific restrictions on the type of lifelong intimate relationships we are to have. Identifying that it was not good for man to be alone, God crafted from the man that He created a woman comparable to him. The woman, who becomes the man’s wife is to be his helpmate. The woman is a gift given to men to complement them. They are both created equal in their status as God’s image bearers. This sacred union was joined together to produce children, something God has likewise given as a blessing. Which means that parents are always mom and dad, nothing else.
  • God taught the man (and his wife through him) what their responsibility was as image bearers. They were to rule in God’s stead (i.e., exercise dominion) over the earth, and over its creatures. They were to tend the earth and keep (protect) what God had given as an inheritance.
  • God taught the man (and his wife through him) what was good for food. They were given every green plant, herb and fruit from trees, bushes and vines for their food. In the beginning there was no death, and so all creatures that had the breath of life in them were vegetarian. All that the earth produced, either naturally or through cultivation was given to feed the man, the woman and their offspring.
  • God taught the man (and his wife through him) the way of life and death. Here is the evidence of a verbal restriction; a no trespassing sign. Faithful obedience was the measure of continued relationship between God and mankind, mankind and the creatures under him/her, and the earth itself. Blessing following humility; whereas, cursing followed pride. (cf. Gen 1-3).

And so, we see that from the very beginning God has placed necessary limitations on His creatures. We are created free within the bonds of our Maker. We are restricted to go beyond the boundaries He has imposed.

Now look back at the question: “What limitations does the Church of Jesus Christ have on it?”

Answer 1b:

The second thing we ought to notice about this question is the word “of.” The Church is “of” Jesus Christ. What does that mean? It means that the Church (the saints and not the building, or the denomination, or the theological strain) is the possession of Jesus Christ. That is what the word “of” denotes, possessive power. That power and authority belongs to Christ Jesus alone. Thus, He is rightly identified as the “head” of the Church. Which is also why the Church is called His body.

Jesus Christ is the sole owner of the Church (again, we are talking about people here not structures), for we are His creation, His workmanship (Eph 2.10).  His life purchased us (Psa 74.2; Acts 20.28; Rev 5.9). His righteousness made us (2Cor 5.21). His holiness set us apart (2Tim 1.9; Rev 20.6).

Of course, I haven’t answered the question yet. But I would imagine that you already know the answer. The limitations that the Church of Jesus Christ has on it are what He has determined as necessary. The Church of Jesus Christ is being conformed into the image of the One and Only Son of God (Rom 8.29). The Church of Jesus Christ, therefore, is to think Christ’s thoughts after Him (1Cor 2.16). So, in order to answer the question regarding limitations we must ask ourselves: “How did we learn Christ” (Eph 4.20)?

Don’t worry you don’t have to think hard over this, if you haven’t figured it out yet. If we are to know our limitations. If we are to understand our restrictions. If we are to properly define our freedoms in this life, then we must learn to not go beyond what is written (1Cor 4.6). We must “abide in [His] word” (John 8.31) in order to “know the truth” (John 8.32). For it is His Word that sets us apart from the world’s way of thinking and acting (John 17.17).

“All that God does He does through His executive, who is His agent [Heb 1.1-3]. God does what He does by speaking the Word, and the Word is with Him and the Word is God [John 1.1-3]. The divine action cannot therefore be silent, cannot be wordless.

Christians are therefore, of necessity, people of the Word. They are people of the Word in the first instance because they are followers of Jesus, and Jesus is the Spoken Word. They are people of the Word in the second place because God has been pleased, in every age, to give verbal expression of His will to His prophets, with clear instructions to write it down [see Exod 17.14; 34.27; Jer 36.2, 28]. And in the third instance, God speaks to us daily in ever blade of grass, every breeze, every driveway pebble, and every crab nebula. Day after day pours forth speech, and night after night the knowledge increases. God speaks [cf. Rom 1.19-20; Psa 19.1-6].”[i]

The question we need to answer is do we listen to what God says? If so, then we will not only know the necessary limitations He has placed on us as His creatures, as members of Christ’s Church, but we will listen (i.e., faithfully seek to obey).

Question 2’s response forthcoming…


ENDNOTES:

[i] Doug Wilson, Mere Fundamentalism: The Apostles’ Creed and the Romance of Orthodoxy (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2018), loc 815-821, Kindle Edition. Note to reader: the bold, bracketed sections were examples found in the Scriptures that validate the point that Wilson is making in his comments. They are not meant to be exhaustive, but are given so that the reader might begin a search into such things.

Posted in politics, Uncategorized

Limitations, Authority and Politics

Let’s do a quick test. Let me ask you a few questions, and then you can mull them over. If you’d like to give a written response you are free to do so. If the cat’s got your tongue that’s fine too. But I want you, the reader, to think, “What limitations does the Church of Jesus Christ have on it?” Directly related is the follow up: “Who has the authority to place the limitations?” With those two questions in mind, “Is it right to preach politics from the pulpit?

I will deal with these three questions in future posts. The first will drop tomorrow. The other two will be in the near future, depending upon my schedule. Overlap should be expected with question 1 & 2 since they are relational in nature. As for question 3, you’ll just have to wait and see.

Posted in Apologetics

The Ladder

One of the critiques that I heard from the late Greg L. Bahnsen against other forms of apologetics (those in the non-presuppositional branch) is that they attempt to build a ladder to Jesus, and then once they got an individual to him, they’d throw the ladder away. For a very long time I pondered that statement. But one day the realization kind of hit me between the eyes. Before I tell you what that realization was, perhaps I should explain what he meant by building the ladder to Jesus.

A Caveat…

The evidential or classical Christian apologist uses various arguments that are philosophically, evidence based. Actually, this is true of all Christian apologetic methodologies. All use evidences. All use philosophical argumentation. All attempt to get the person to Christ Jesus.

Motivations and Ignorance…

If that is the actual desire of the person in question, then I cannot fault the individual. They are attempting to do a noble thing. However, while the motivation may be honorable, the method or manner in which they try to point people to Jesus is an ignorant pursuit. Whether it is willful ignorance or accidental, I cannot say without having first spoken to the person in question. But to show I am not being a jerk, please allow me to explain.

How the Argument typically goes…

“Before we get to Christ,” we got to get them to believe “x.” Then after we get them to believe “x” we can move on to “y.” This process goes on until Jesus is in view. The ladder is based on the possibility of an intelligent designer. The trustworthy nature of Scripture. Not necessarily inerrant or infallible, mind you, but good enough for most people to find believable. The pursuit in reaching the gospel is an unidentifiable number of steps. How many depends upon the person to whom the Christian apologist is witnessing.

Eventually, once it has been proved (not a certainty, but a strong possibility) that there is a god, that he is personal, that he has given us a fairly reliable revelation (both inscripturated and natural), and that we are sinners (although restraint will be used with that offensive word!) in need of a savior who has been identified as Jesus of Nazareth. A man that historical, and philosophical evidences show very likely that he died on a Roman cross (he didn’t swoon), arose three days later (no one stole the corpse), as has been testified about as resurrected and ascended by eyewitnesses (his disciples who more than likely didn’t lie for they were willing to die for what they were saying; and, it probably wasn’t an illusion for over 500 shared it). Once the case has been made through evidences and philosophical argumentation to the high probability of Jesus being God in the flesh, making possible the salvation of fallen humanity if they would believe in Him, then the ladder which got them there is no longer needed.

Underlying Problem…

What’s the problem with that approach? Why did Bahnsen mock it? Because it negates the meaning of being a true Christian apologist. There is a ladder that gets us to God the Father—it is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the first rung on the ladder and He is the last. He is the beginning of the journey to God and He is the end of the journey to God—the veritable Alpha and Omega!

The Real Ladder Understood…

The only ladder that the Christian apologist has been authorized to use is the Lord. Before we offer a reasoned defense to anyone who asks about the hope within us, we are called (commanded) to set Christ apart as Holy (1Pet 3.15). Jesus made this clear to His disciples on numerous occasions. He declared that “no one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14.6). He said that “no one knows the Father except if the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Luke 10.22).

We are told in Scripture that “faith [in Christ] comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ [of God]” (Rom 10.17). For God has chosen to speak through “His Son…He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1.3). His Word is the foundation (Matt 7.24) of wisdom and knowledge (Prov 1.7; 9.10; Col 2.3), and this is justified by the children of God (Luke 7.35), who are built upon this blessed cornerstone (Isa 28.16; 1Pet 2.7; also see Deut 32).

The Lord declared that evidences, even fantastic ones would not convince a person if they remained unconvinced by God’s Word (Luke 16.31). For the gospel is a spiritual truth that cannot be discerned by natural means (1Cor 2.14), but only by supernatural means (John 3.3). For it is utter folly to the world, but a demonstration of God’s power to those being saved (1Cor 1.18). And this gospel is not limited to a few select verses or a few books, but the entirety of God’s Word. The whole Bible—Genesis to Revelation—points to Christ so that those who believe might have life (John 5.39-40) by having faith in the one and only Son, without which (faith in Him and His Word), it is impossible to please God (Heb 11.6)

The Ladder of Presuppositional Apologetics…

The presuppositional method of apologetics starts with Christ and ends with Christ. The presuppositional method understands that Christ is the ladder, the first step and the last step. He is the only foundation necessary for faith. And faith is a work of God, the Holy Spirit, an act of unmerited grace and undeserving mercy upon those who are called the children of God. There is no need then to do away with the ladder which leads us to life, for that ladder is our Lord:

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1Tim 2.5; cf. Gen 28.12-13).


Image by Gerd Altmann