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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Touching the Third Rail! – Why Are Reformed Christians in the U.S. Obsessed With Politics?

Touching the Third Rail! – Why Are Reformed Christians in the U.S. Obsessed With Politics? [Click on the title to see the commentary at the Aquila Report].

I'm appalled at Brits who pretend to understand American Christianity, particularly Carl Trueman and Paul Levy. First off, neither of them understands the American Revolution and the fierce American opposition to governmental interference in private matters like free speech, freedom of religion, and individual freedom. As the federal government continues to usurp the rights of state governments to manage their own affairs, so the cultural divide widens. That is particularly true in the South where the wounds remaining from the American Civil War are still festering and slowly healing. What Trueman and Levy do not get is that Christians from the Bible belt feel the heat of government intrusions into matters of religious freedom. The Democratic Party's platform is essentially atheistic and relativistic and seeks to promote homosexuality, abortion, premarital and extramarital sex via its morally irresponsible cultural and social policies.



Trueman and Levy want Christians to shut up and stay out of politics because they are essentially liberals on both the political and the theological level. It is simply ludicrous to suppose that Christian churches should not be involved in politics, particularly when the government is increasingly curtailing the rights of Christians and Christian churches to voice their opinions on issues like abortion, homosexual/transgender issues, and sexual morality and ethics. For example it is now a "hate crime" for anyone to openly condemn homosexuality as a "sin" in Canada and from the looks of it the same sort of political interference in the individual's freedom of speech and freedom of religion will become law in the United States.



Furthermore, every American citizen was at one time required to take classes educating them about the dangers of atheistic materialism inherent in the communist and socialist worldview. The Democratic Party is increasingly opposed to Christianity and instead has adopted a form of socialism and secularism that is every bit as dangerous as the socialism espoused by the communists of the early 20th century. If Europe and Australia is our example, godlessness and atheism are the result of Trueman and Levy's point of view. Their celebration of hedonism in government simply reveals their true motives are not Christian but secular and materialistic. The Christian and the Christian church are not neutral but actively promoting the kingdom of God by focusing not only on the temporal and earthly extension of the kingdom but by preaching the Gospel and furthering the eternal kingdom which is unseen.



Moreover, Trueman and Levy are naive if they believe that the separation of church and state means that the state gets to dominate the Christian and the Christian church. It is true that Christians have been martyred over the centuries but that does not mean that Christians were beaten into submissive silence on moral issues and on theological issues. Trueman and Levy seem to have forgotten that John the Baptist was beheaded for daring to criticize Herod for marrying his brother Philip's wife, Herodias, which John the Baptist said was "unlawful". (Mark 16:17-29). I guess John should have taken the advice of Trueman and Levy? If individual Christians are members of the Christian church, then it follows naturally that both individual Christians and Christian churches should speak out against immoral government policies. What if William Wilberforce and John Newton had taken the position that Christian churches should not be involved in politics? Do you really believe the slave trade would have been ended in 19th century England? I suppose by Trueman and Levy's view Wilberforce should have simply acted alone and hoped for the best? But the English and the American abolitionist movement was promoted by Christian individuals supported by their churches. As the preacher of Ecclesiastes puts it:



And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him--a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12 ESV)



I am not a theonomist nor am I a reconstructionist. That does not mean, however, that Christians or churches should hide in a corner somewhere and pretend the world is not an enemy of the Gospel. If the Protestant Reformation is any example then we as Christians cannot afford to sit back and hope that the enemies of the Gospel will simply leave us be. As I write this article Christians are being martyred all over the world. Does Trueman and Levy think this will not happen in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada or Australia? Christians and churches should stand together and unite against those who hate the Gospel, that much is clear.



I disagree with ecumenicalism on the Evangelical side of things and on the liberal mainline side of things. As Michael Horton has pointed out, many Evangelical churches are simply preaching a form of neo-pelagianism. But that does not mean that we as Christians cannot operate on a level of co-belligerence that refuses to confuse the Gospel with a social gospel or a civil religious compromise with false churches which promote a false gospel of good works or a false gospel of theological relativism. Conservative Christians should unite against the intrusion of the government into private affairs of the Christian churches and the freedom of religion. If the UK, Canada and Australia are any indication it is imperative that churches be involved in the political process. Otherwise we wind up with a nation with no conscience and genocide is the result. Never forget what happened when Christians did nothing to stop the genocide of the Jews in Nazi Germany. What if American Christian churches had done nothing to end Jim Crow laws and racial segregation? Would the American Civil Rights laws have been passed giving black Americans equal rights? I think not. Simply put Trueman and Levy are naive at best and dissimulators with a hidden agenda at worst.



Finally, it seems to me that many churches are already involved in political issues. If conservative Christian churches do not speak out against immorality, then the liberal left version of theonomy--which is basically sanctified godlessness and atheism--then the cultural war is lost by default. Albeit the Gospel is not to be confused with the moral law or with cultural transformation (the error of both theonomists and liberals), it does not follow that churches which preach the true Gospel are to shut up and stay out of politics. No thank-you, Trueman. Maybe you should move back across the pond. We Americans do not need your gutless accommodation to the world.


One has to wonder why Trueman wrote a book on political issues if he really believes that Christian churches should stay in their corner or holed up in solitude? It seems to me that Trueman is irrational if he thinks there is some sort of dichotomy between the individual Christian and the unity of Christians we call a congregation or a church. We all stand together or we all fall together. Church history seems to indicate that well enough.



See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1 ESV)



The peace of God be with you,

Charlie J. Ray



5 comments:

Charlie J. Ray said...

Julie Clemens sent this message in FaceBook:

Hi Charlie,

I just read your blog. I do think you’re being a little too hard on Trueman & Levy. Yes, politically they lean liberal, but theologically they seem to be a mixture of conservative/liberal – a strange animal I’m not familiar with. So, I’m willing to cut them some slack for now. They (to the best of my knowledge) haven’t compromised the gospel.

In your previous email you mentioned that the Theonomist/Reconstructionist doesn’t realize that the OT Civil Law was in force for the nation of Israel and doesn’t apply to the US, England, China,etc. because there is no other nation that was chosen by God as a Theocracy.

There seems to be a similar disconnect in the “church” today regarding the realm of Christ’s Kingdom. Yes, God is sovereign over ALL. He builds up nations, tears them down, sets their boundaries, and chooses their rulers. But the Kingdom that Christ promised to build was His Church. The Visible church, (all the varying congregations), are to be about preaching the gospel, proclaiming His glory and worth, so that salvation will be brought to all the elect. Trueman was quite clear in his book that the church, in many ways, has abandoned this commission, and is instead looking to political solutions for the moral decay and lostness of those around them.

Now don’t get me wrong. While I believe that denominations and para-churches should not be preaching politics, that doesn’t mean that I believe the individual Christian himself should be negligent in this arena. The pastor preaches the Word, which the Holy Spirit uses to transform the lives of the believers, making them more like Christ. They in turn live out their transformed life in this world, (by God's grace) which affects all aspects of culture – including the political realm. A true believer will work to protect the unborn, helping all the “least of these”. It is as each individual believer in the local congregation lives to the glory of God that our society will be changed.

Our country is as it is because those who profess Christ do not live to the glory of the Savior they profess. If all pulpits would preach “Christ and Him crucified” they wouldn’t have time/energy/resources or inclination to run to Egypt for their horses and chariots.

Bottom line: My Pastor and Elders are responsible to preach the Gospel, administer the sacraments, and hold me accountable to my profession, training me up in Christ. I am responsible to live out my profession, which means doing all to the glory of God. Churches shouldn’t be political activists; however, individual members of the congregation should fully participate (prayerfully) in choosing members of government and advocating for God honoring legislation.

Thank you for making me think.

Yours in Christ,

Julie

Charlie J. Ray said...

I agree with you that the church is not to be so concerned with cultural transformation that it neglects the Gospel and the eternal message. To confuse the here and now with eternity is essentially liberalism. That's the error of both theological liberals and the conservative reconstructionists and theonomists. However, my point is that Trueman has overlooked another issue altogether and that is the fact that the government is increasingly eroding individual freedoms of individual Christians by taking away the Bill of Rights in increments. The freedom of speech and the freedom of religion are under threat from atheists like Bill Maher and other journalists putting out a constant stream of anti-Christian hate speech and propaganda.

As I cited in the blog article, Christian churches standing together are stronger than isolated individuals or individual churches. We live in the modern world and retreating into a fundamentalist ghetto is no more an option than selling out to ecumenicalism.

If you have read my blog for any length of time you will see that I have given the theonomists, reconstructionists, and the Anglo-Catholics/Roman Catholics no slack. I have opposed the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document as well as the more recent Manhattan Declaration for the simple reason that both confuse political activism/co-belligerence with the Gospel.

We must be very careful not to confuse God's immanence with His transcendence nor must we confuse the two kingdoms. There is a kingdom of this world and there is the kingdom of heaven. But we must also remember that the magisterial reformers did not withdraw from the political arena. That view is essentially Anabaptist, the view that Trueman and Levy are promoting. The magisterial reformers one and all understood that church and state cannot be absolutely isolated from one another. That's why Geneva had no separation of church and state, although the two realms were distinct from one another. Calvin never condemned Michael Servetus but he did report his illegal heresy to the civil government, which then brought criminal charges against him.

The fact is that if we allow the atheists and the homosexual political clout they can and will continue to use the government to attack Christianity until the point that Christianity will become illegal as we know it today. The result will be that we will be something like communist China where only state sanctioned Christianity is allowed to exist and that Christianity is apostate at best. Is that truly what you want for America?

No, Christians should band together as churches and fight together in organizations. Isolating one another as mere individuals is just silly. Trueman is basically an idiot who thinks he gets to tell the rest of us what to think. He's really no better than Bill Maher. Demagogues always think they know what is best for the rest of us.

I for one intend to speak up and speak my mind. In the A/G one was expected to be blindly following what those in authority said. I will not do that again. While the Reformed position does uphold the church as a secondary authority, the Scriptures are the final authority and individuals must decide for themselves that the Reformed confessions are true to Scripture. As Luther put it, the Scriptures speak to my conscience and I do nothing other. Here I stand.

Sincerely yours,

Charlie

Anonymous said...

"The Democratic Party's platform is essentially atheistic and relativistic and seeks to promote homosexuality, abortion, premarital and extramarital sex via its morally irresponsible cultural and social policies."

I'm a Brit, so I guess from your perspective that my upbringing or genetic background probably proclude me from having anything valid to say, but I'm stunned that you can write this without feeling any sense of embarrassment.

Are you seeking truth or just trying to "win" an argument with other theological wordsmiths?

Perhaps it's just as valid for someone from the left to say, "The Republican Party's platform essentially promotes covetessness, greed and the creation of material idols, neglecting the needs of the poor. Many of their policies are in direct conflict with Jesus' ministry of reaching out to those at the bottom of the social pyramid, the poor, women, foreigners, the disabled, children, prostitutes and tax collectors."

Charlie J. Ray said...

Anonymous, not only are you a Brit but you're a coward hiding behind your anonymity. The fact that you're already living under a democratic socialist regime explains why you have no clue about American politics or even Protestant, Calvinist, and Evangelical religion and theology.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I might add that I grew up poor and lived under the welfare system as a child. It humiliates and denigrates humanity. What the poor want is equal opportunity and a good job--not given bare subsistence and a system that keeps the poor in bondage to poverty and government handouts.

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