10 July 2010

Why am I talking about all this? How did I get here? Part 4

Which Kingdom premise teaches Christians to be discerning, and which premise takes away their discernment?

How we are to view the world as a Pilgrim people and what happens when we don't?

We noted it during the 2008 Presidential election when the 'Reverend' Rick Warren hosted a debate between Obama and McCain. Warren asked some rather unique questions…here's an excerpt:

WARREN: OK, we've got one last time -- I've got a bunch more, but let me ask you one about evil. Does evil exist? And if it does, do we ignore it? Do we negotiate with it? Do we contain it? Do we defeat it?

OBAMA: Evil does exist. I mean, I think we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur. We see evil, sadly, on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who viciously abuse their children. I think it has to be confronted. It has to be confronted squarely, and one of the things that I strongly believe is that, now, we are not going to, as individuals, be able to erase evil from the world. That is God's task, but we can be soldiers in that process, and we can confront it when we see it.

Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for to us have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, because a lot of evil's been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.


OBAMA: In the name of good, and I think, you know, one thing that's very important is having some humility in recognizing that just because we think that our intentions are good, doesn't always mean that we're going to be doing good. `
WARREN: OK. All right. Let's move on to some domestic issues.......

Why is a supposed Christian asking a politician of a common grace nation something like that? Why is he asking the Common Grace state to define a metaphysical concept? If you recall the mention of 'evil' in the debates, you will know the context for Warren asking the question. It's about diplomacy with America's enemies. It wasn't a genuine question, it was a lead in, a platform to score a political point.

Obama gave a thoughtful answer, he'd obviously been coached a bit by Jim Wallis or somebody. Here's McCain:

WARREN: How about the issue of evil. I asked this of your rival, in the previous debate. Does evil exist and, if so, should ignore it, negotiate it with it, contain it or defeat it?

MCCAIN: Defeat it. A couple of points. One, if I'm president of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that. And I know how to do that. I will get that done. (APPLAUSE). No one, no one should be allowed to take thousands of American -- innocent American lives.

Of course, evil must be defeated. My friends, we are facing the transcended challenge of the 21st century -- radical Islamic extremism.

Not long ago in Baghdad, Al Qaida took two young women who were mentally disabled, and put suicide vests on them, sent them into a marketplace and, by remote control, detonated those suicide vests. If that isn't evil, you have to tell me what is. And we're going to defeat this evil. And the central battleground according to David Petraeus and Osama bin Laden is the battle, is Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Iraq and we are winning and succeeding and our troops will come home with honor and with victory and not in defeat. And that's what's happening.

And we have -- and we face this threat throughout the world. It's not just in Iraq. It's not just in Afghanistan. Our intelligence people tell us Al Qaida continues to try to establish cells here in the United States of America. My friends, we must face this challenge. We can face this challenge. And we must totally defeat it, and we're in a long struggle. But when I'm around, the young men and women who are serving this nation in uniform, I have no doubt, none.

WARREN: All right. These next questions have to deal with domestic issues.....

McCain turned cowboy, and played on the fact that Christian in America use their pronouns kind of funny. 'WE" can sometimes mean the church, but they also use 'WE' to talk about America, often in the same breath. McCain didn't do that here, but his audience perceives that way. Can I prove that, no. But I see it and hear it everyday. The political issues of the day are tit-for-tat the theological issues of the church. No distinction. I hear Dobson and people like him talking about "WE' have to fix the church. It's broken. We've got to teach people the Bible. "WE'VE" got to get better judges on the court and "WE" need a president who will stand up to Iran.

The next day on Christian radio, they were extolling McCain as someone who knows what evil is and recognizes you can't negotiate it. Of course it was all in the context Ahmadinejad and the Iranian crisis, it was quite obvious. It had been a subject of debate. People were upset that Obama said the American government shouldn't be afraid to negotiate with Iran. The Conservatives keep saying you can't sit down and negotiate with evil. The problem is, they don’t see the U.S. is evil too. It's not really pertinent to the discussion between Iran and the United States. It is sacral language. Sure, the Nazis were evil, and they needed to be stopped, but we must be careful that we don't as a nation establish ourselves as the Covenant People and claim as a nation, the mandate of Heaven.

I remember thinking as I listened to the Christian radio that day…these people are not interested in thinking things through….they're not interested in seeking the truth…how can this be the fruits of regeneration? Obama gave the better answer, dare I say even more theologically accurate. Read those again if you don't believe me. McCain spoke as a fool. If he or Bush think the United States can destroy evil….? I don't even know what to say. They are thinking in Sacral terms. Sure it can whip up emotion and action. Look at the First Crusade. But it can also lead to horrific death and destruction justified in their minds by their possession of Heaven's mandate.

So if we don't cast the news or history in terms of good and evil. How do we understand it? We understand that the world is fallen, though guided by Providence, and the kingdoms of this earth are the City of Man. The City of God lives in the City of Man. But the realm of history is MOSTLY the history of the City of Man. We as the City of God interact with it, but we're not quite of it either. The Kingdom is the force at work which cannot be seen or understood by unregenerate man. They can't get it. If you think they can, you stand in conflict with the New Testament on the nature of the Kingdom.

Luke 17.20-21
20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’[a] For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

John 3.3
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Romans 14.17
17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
John 18.36
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

...And I know Sacralists will suggest 'World' has to be defined by 1 John 2.16.

So what Jesus meant to say was...Yes, Pilate I am indeed the king of political Israel, but you Romans don't have to worry. I am going to take it out of your empire, and my servants won't fight because their not proud and they don't for power.
Sacralists can do some pretty amazing things with the words of Jesus. In fact it's telling, of all the New Testaments writings which they misunderstand and have contort, the words of Jesus Himself are the ones they just don't seem to get.

Again, the Kingdom is here, it's mighty and at work....but the world is not going to get it.

So how do we understand as Christians, the history and current events within the City of Man?

As Christians, but that doesn't mean that due to a Sacralist agenda, with a philosophical not a Biblical construct to guide, we then presume to grasp every event and issue in the City of Man and all of history and know how they are to be explained and interpreted.

Not only does the Bible not give us the tools for that, it is an outrageous assumption and a complete reduction of the concept of an eternal all-governing Providence. How dare you to presume you know what God was doing in 1776? Maybe that wasn't blessing, maybe that was judgment. More likely, it was both. With it came some good things, and with it came some very bad things we're dealing with today...both in the church and out.

I know they think they are honouring Providence by that view, but with these pre-conceptions the are failing to understand this world as it is...fallen. And they are failing to understand history in a fallen world. As a result they are completely misunderstanding current events, the role of the church in the world. I repeat and rephrase:

How are Christians committed to Truth, to understand history and current events?
I will freely grant, there is no true objective neutrality possible. Even if someone approaches an issue as morally neutral as they can…even their inner notions and senses will affect and thus shape the data maybe in tone, maybe in presentation, maybe in presentational sequence. There's no doubt about that. That's why when you want to try and genuinely seek the truth, determine, understand, and interpret facts about something…you understand full comprehension and assimilation of something isn't possible….but you'll get a lot closer and be a lot wiser if you consider different angles and viewpoints. We shouldn't just tickle our ears, we should deliberately read, watch, and listen to, people we know we don't agree with, or else how will we know we aren't being deceived? How will we know that an ideology, a doctrine, isn't shaping our understanding. We will be shaped, but we can try to a little wiser about it, don't you think? Rather than just say, "Yes, everyone's got a historiographical agenda, mine right, the end."

The safest thing is to Know God through His Word. Walk the ramparts of Zion and gave on the Holy Mountain. But we live in the City of Man. It's dangerous, deceptive, seductive, but it's where we live. We had better understand it. We better be thinking, and the only way we won't be fooled is to keep our eyes on that Holy Mountain in the distance.

I was listening to the Al Mohler show one day. The other guy was hosting…Russell Moore I think? Anyway they were talking about the place of Patriotism in the Church Service…flags, having veterans stand up, that sort of thing. Moore was obviously quite in favour. Mark Dever, one of the guests was considerably more thoughtful but in the end didn't really have a problem with it either….but maybe you shouldn't do it on the actual holiday…it might confuse people. Sing America the Beautiful in February instead. I'm paraphrasing and commenting here…please understand. These are not quotes.

Well, then they had Stanley Hauerwas on there. He's United Methodist I believe, and is quite outspoken against Constantinianism. You see his name associated with Ellul and Yoder, Christian Anarchism and Pacifism…Tolstoy and Chelcicky. I don't even know if Hauerwas is a Christian, but he spoke well, and fervently against the practice of patriotic and nationalist ritual in the gathering of the church. He understood it to be a corruption and perversion of the Body of Christ, a perversion of the Kingdom.

You could tell Moore was just disgusted with him…could barely hide it. Moore asked him what he would do if he walked into a church and saw a patriotic service or something going on. Hauerwas said he would walk out. Good answer. Nice set-up question to make him look dumb and extremist. Nothing is more offensive to Sacralists than non-patriotism. Think about that a minute in your spare time. As you read the First Commandment, superimpose an American flag in the background.
But it was a good question and I'm glad he asked. I was pleased to hear no equivocation, no hesitation and no apology on the part of Hauerwas.

Then Hauerwas tried to make a point. He talked about how Germans….Christian people (using the cultural definition again, but that's the Sacralist's preferred category) were able to be convinced that the agenda of the Third Reich was the right thing to do because they had confused Germany with the Church. The politics of the nation become the doctrine of the church….things like that. I don't remember his exact words, but I know the argument well. And then they went off into the army and did all the terrible things and that we as Americans are in the same danger of doing today when we confuse the distinction between the church and state. The German population generally speaking was some variety of Christian and they thought by following Hitler they were doing what was right. We are civilized people, a Christian people, right?

Moore kind of scoffed and said something like…you couldn't apply that to American soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq? Surely they can tell the difference between what they're doing and what the Nazi's did?

Hauerwas responded…….How would they know? The Germans didn't.

Then they finished with Hauerwas and had a follow up segment…beat up on him and mocked him a bit… he was off air by then.

Bravely spoken…and totally missed his point.

Which leads to another point. The show wasn't meant to really explore the issue. The purpose of the show was to make Hauerwas and his position look foolish. Can I prove it, no. But I see it all the time on Christian radio. It's really disingenuous.
Instead I think Hawerwaus actually made his point perfectly……Moore couldn't have been a better example. His Sacralist commitments bind and blind his mind and he ceases to be able to think as a Christian. This is what so-called Christian Worldview teaching and Van Tillian no-neutrality thought has given us on the street level. People like Moore can't see the Holy Mountain in the distance anymore. It's like they think if we turn our back on the mountain and stand in its shadow while we look on the City of Man…then we'll be alright, because we see everything in the shadow of the Holy Mountain. It doesn't work. Shadows can be tricky, broken up by objects, change the way things are proportioned. Don't operate in the shadow. Stand boldly in the middle of the city but keep your eyes on the mountain. The pietists flee the city, and go climb a nearby mountain that they think is connected to the holy mountain by a spur, but it's not.

This is typical of what's happening in Christian media today…ringers, disingenuous presentations…very little discussion. That's why I'm writing these things….I've been reading in the blogosphere for years…there are some genuine discussions, but not many. Everybody is scratching each other's backs. If someone comes in with something provocative… often they won't even let you post….or everyone just shuts down. It's almost like if you think outside the accepted boxes……you'd be questioning your faith. I see so much fear within Christian circles…….it really dominates a lot of people. When you're afraid you don't think…you react. Fear allows you to be manipulated. Fear convinces people to lash out. The Germans were afraid and angry about what had befallen them and the future of their land….Hitler channeled those fears and anger…….

It's interesting watching the same thing happen today….Conservatives…Conservative Christians they're world is out of control….

Think of the days after 9/11, the insanity, the almost surreal quality of the next 30 months…

That fear of Muslims convinced Christians to back two wars against nations that didn't attack us, and allowed a president to eliminate more of our freedoms than any other since Lincoln. Our airports are totalitarian police enclaves. If you want to know what's it like to live in police state, just go to an airport. You have no rights, no voice, no appeal. They can strip your clothes off, incarcerate you, separate you from your children for absolutely no reason at all. And it was all done by a Christian president, cheered on by the Christian segment of the population, in the name of securing the homeland. Obama is not a fascist or a Marxist, but Bush was the closest we've come to a Hitler-type figure in this nation's history. To me, the years 2001-2003 were like Germany in the 1930's. It was unreal, my head was spinning. And just like I always thought…the Christians were the first ones to cheer it all on. They defended Guantanamo, torture, rendition, Abu-Ghraib, the Fallujah massacre. And they defended Blackwater, a mercenary group with Evangelical and even some tenuous Reformed ties functioned like an SS brigade in Iraq. The continue to defend the police state tactics and actually call for more.

As Hawerwaus said…..How would they know? When you've made your society Holy…Christian….you've ceased to think in right and objective terms. So now we had American boys killing Iraqis in a completely unjustified war. Just plain murder.

Don't ever allow a Theonomist to accuse Two-Kingdom theology of letting something like Nazi Germany happen. Luther was Two-Kingdom on paper, never in practice, and Germany never followed through on that. It was over at Augsburg in 1555. That was right back to Sacralism and it never changed. The reason the masses of the German people went along with Hitler was due to numerous historical and cultural factors, but most of them are rooted in Sacralism.

What is it Christians are afraid of today in 2010? What's working them up? Christians are upset because they've got a black president they think is a Marxist….the economy is in the tank….they're losing the Kulturkampf, having been duped by every Conservative politician they put into office………
Mexicans…illegal immigrants…it's their fault. Muslims, they're the ones. Obama he's a muslim… I guess that would be when he forgets he's a Marxist. They will clamour to put another into office. The Tea Party Putsch is at work. We don't have just one Mein Kampf…we've got teams of writers putting out new editions. Some are going rogue, some are arguing with idiots, some are looking out for you while they let freedom ring.


eliyahu said...

I have been commenting on your blog alot today, sir, and I appreciate it tremendously.You've been spot on the whole time-in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you've read the Bethel Confession of 1933, drafted by the German Lutheran theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hermann Sasse in response to the Nazi attempt to control the Church. Their understanding of the "fallen orders" and the Kingdom of God seems very similar to yours, if I may quote the relevant sections.

"Faith and natural knowledge are therefore no longer one and the same because we live in a fallen world, that is, because the world is no longer visibly and unambiguously the Word of God. The fall into sin lies between us and the beginning. Under the curse, God’s blessing is now hidden; under God’s wrath, the grace of God is concealed. In the fallen creation, God and the devil are both at work in everything that happens. God’s blessing and grace are no longer clearly visible to our eyes in this fallen world. Therefore, in order to recognize God, we are entirely dependent on God’s self-revelation, as witnessed to us by the Scriptures and proclaimed through the preaching of the church. Only in obedience to the Word of God in the Scriptures can we know the Creator, and not through any interpretation of events in the world...

We reject the false doctrine that this world, just as it is, corresponds to the original creation according to the will of God and must therefore be fully affirmed. If we thought of the world as unscathed by sin, it would contradict the Bible’s affirmation that sin is mortally dangerous..."

Anonymous said...

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"The Orders

The church teaches that God has patience with human beings, allowing them to live in the fallen world and sustaining them there. To preserve human beings from their unbridled selfishness and keep them from destroying themselves, God imposes firm orders upon human life. These are not the orders of the original creation, but rather orders by which God keeps humankind alive for the sake of its future in Christ and the new creation. These orders of preservation are therefore of no value in themselves, but only in relation to the end to which God will bring humankind, to the new creation in Christ. Their only meaning is that human beings may and must live in accordance with them until we are redeemed. They are the valid orders of God, but have no ultimate validity. They have already been broken down and overcome, from the perspective of the end of history. The orders remain, but their form changes with the course of history.
The orders that we have been given are those of gender, marriage, the family, the nation, property (work and the economy), profession or trade, and government. Human beings cannot escape from any of these orders, nor can any of them be transferred or transformed into another. Marriage remains marriage, the nation [Volk] remains the nation, government [Obrigkeit] remains government...

Because of the demands of the various orders, human beings find themselves in a continuous tension. This tension is for us the most highly visible proof that the world is in need of redemption. Worldly authority has the responsibility for resolving the world’s tensions, and it alone defends its legal system by the sword.

Christians receive these orders, which keep human beings alive and preserve them for their future in Christ, in faith from the hand of our Creator. The orders call us to thanksgiving and repentance. We know that besides the resolution of conflicts by the state, to which we bow in obedience, the church’s proclamation assures us of the ultimate resolution of all conflicts through redemption in Christ.

We reject the false doctrine that in this fallen world there could be any orders of ultimate significance that would not be included under God’s curse as a result of the Fall and could thus be recognized and affirmed as the original, unbroken orders of creation. For this would make it possible for humankind to return to a world without sin, and would make Christ’s death on the cross superfluous.

We reject the false doctrine that because the orders of the fallen world mentioned above are not ultimately valid for Christians, they could therefore be a matter of indifference for us or without any validity at all. We therefore reject every attempt to make of the Gospel of love ¦378¦ a law for the construction of a new, harmonious society. “At the same time, it permits us make outward use of legitimate political ordinances of whatever nation in which we live . . . For the gospel does not destroy the state or the household but rather approves them, and it orders us to obey them as divine ordinances. . . We have repeated these things so that even outsiders may understand that our teaching does not weaken but rather strengthens the authority of magistrates and the value of civil ordinances generally.” A.C. 10, Art. 16...

Anonymous said...

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"We reject the false doctrine that would make obedience to the orders dependent on whether the person who embodies them is a Christian. It is not whether the authorities are Christian or heathen, but whether they have a right concept of their worldly office, which obligates us to obey them as God’s order. “[The gospel] . . . commands us to obey the present laws, whether they have been formulated by pagans or by others.” (A.C. 16) “Christians therefore are obliged to be subject to political authority and to obey its commands and laws in all that may be done without sin. But if a command of the political authority cannot be followed without sin, we must obey God rather than any human beings.” Acts 5:29; C.A. Art. 16.

We reject the false doctrine that holds that we ourselves are able to restore the orders of creation, which have been destroyed by sin, to their original purity. Only in Christ can the world be restored; not until the new creation will it again stand in visible purity before its Creator. “No one except God alone can separate the corruption of our nature from the nature itself.” (F.C.I.I.III)."

The Law

The orders preserve the world for its end according to God’s will. The orders are equally well known to both heathens and Christians. They are to be distinguished from the law of God. In the law, God speaks through revelation to each human being personally. It represents God’s claim to be Lord among humankind, in which we are called to offer up our complete devotion and love for God and our neighbor. The law is revealed in the Bible in numerous specific demands; these do not have the meaning for us of principles to be applied, but rather carry the authority of true witness to the Lord who commands us freely. (The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are in agreement on this.)

The church therefore proclaims the law of the Scriptures, not as a principle for us each to apply in different ways, but as the concrete claim made upon us by God as our Lord, which binds us again and again to the one Lord revealed in the Bible. A Christian receives God’s law only as it is proclaimed in the church according to the Scriptures. Christians also understand the orders within which they live as God’s law only through the Holy Scriptures.

The Old Testament law differs from the laws for living and the orders of other peoples in that it is given to Israel as the people of God, as the people chosen to be the church. Therefore it is not to be made the subject of comparisons, but only of proclamation.

We reject the false doctrine that the orders of God in the Nomos of nations could be the same as the law of God. This only applies to the Old Testament law of the people Israel. Israel is both people and church. It alone is chosen. That this is fact is expressed in the difference between the laws of all other peoples and the Ten Commandments. The latter’s uniqueness is found in the first commandment, which denies any attempt to call upon any other orders as if they were God’s law. The entire law of Israel as the people of God is valid only by virtue of this first commandment. The first and second tablets of the Ten Commandments form an indissoluble unity, and are to be proclaimed only as such. The Christian who wants to live in obedience to the orders as if they were the law of God can do so only on the basis of the proclamation of the biblical law."

You can read more about it here: http://www.lutheranwiki.org/The_Bethel_Confession:_August_Version#Faith_in_the_Creator_and_natural_knowledge