Today I want to give some filters (biblical ones hopefully) by which we look at the issues of our country and world. First, I want to offer two basic foundational principles.
Foundation 1: Worldviews and actions stem from beliefs, and non-Christians don’t believe the same things as Christians. This seems obvious, but it’s very important.
This means that we should not expect non-Christians to act like Christians. I’ll take it further: we shouldn’t try and force them to act like Christians if they’re not. Christianity is a heart business, not a legalistic one. Forcing everybody in this nation to act, teach, speak, spend, and live like Christians does not make them Christians, nor this nation into a “Christian” nation. In fact, it makes us a nation of Pharisees trying to make a natural, temporal kingdom out of a spiritual, eternal one.
Foundation 2: This nation is now post-Christian, and it’s the best thing to ever happen to the American church.
For the first time in our history, the basic predominating culture in America is not a Christian one. And this is good news. In American Church history we see the degradation of theology and doctrine happen when politics and religion are fused.
Orthodoxy took a back seat to membership and “conversion” numbers after everyone started assuming we thought the same. And this was primarily expressed through the political rhetoric of the of the day. American Evangelicals became “arminian pre-millennial cecessionist dispensationalists”. If you don’t know what those words mean, don’t worry. Just know these are all theological views that parallel American political and cultural views in the 18th and 19th centuries.
These ideas include self-rule and autonomy from a higher authority (arminianism), rational anti-supernaturalism (cessesionism), immediate gratification/escapism (rapture theology), encouragement of the creation of short-term earthly “self-kingdoms” (pre-millenialism), and the idea that higher authorities should change and respond to the actions of the people, not vice-versa (dispensationalism).
So what does all this mean?
America is secular and secularists are not supposed to act like Christians. It means that our fight is not with flesh and blood, letter and law. So so many of the culture war touch-points (everything from abortion to prayer in schools to education) are entirely missing the point. Neither Culture nor politics can be “redeemed” or “Christainized”, and we’re not called to try. The people within a culture are our goal.
No servant is greater than their master. We are meant to live here as Christ did. We are to serve and submit to them, putting aside our rightful authority as heirs to all things while sacrificing ourselves for God’s Glory and their good.
We are called to be ambassadors. What ambassador goes into the nation he’s called to serve and demand it be changed to look like his?
No, beloved. We are called to declare the inferiority of the world that is and proclaim the supremacy of a Kingdom to come, while pleading with its inhabitants to swear allegiance and affection for the coming King. The King who came and willingly submitted and died under the godless laws of the people he was trying to save, more interested in the affections of their heart than the politics of their people.
I’ll end with this famous passage from Romans 13. Remember, Paul is writing this about Rome, the country that was everything Evangelicals are terrified about this country becoming. Try to grasp the feel of this as Paul writes it and see if it matches the vehemence and pride with which the Evangelical culture addresses these issues. I hope you see it doesn’t.
“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 the same reason 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. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Rom. 13:1-8)
Next post: let’s really look at why some American Evangelicals care so much about this stuff.