03 November 2010

Pilgrims in Babylon

Yesterday I was listening to the local Constantinian radio station and I grew quickly bored with the repeated urges and then commands to go out and vote today. And of course what they mean is vote Republican, because it is the only party that will even remotely push the Christian America agenda.

Of course if you're familiar with the writings here, you will know that I argue strenuously that the Christian America position is not only wrong and anti-Biblical, but in fact a departure from Biblical Christianity. To the un-nuanced monistic mindset of the American Evangelical, this must mean I'm some kind of liberal, a democrat and therefore a heretic and a traitor.

If I reject Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck I must support abortion, the homosexual lifestyle, Sharia law, and Spanish as the national language. I obviously want the United States to become a Marxist Islamic Utopia governed by Gay Nazi Mexicans.

Am I utilizing hyperbole here? Only slightly.

Have American Evangelicals really become this stupid? What has happened? Why are Evangelicals unable to think? Why are they spewing out invective that is frankly nonsensical?

I would argue they are being judged by God. They are being sent strong delusion, and reaping the harvest of idolatry.

They have become so blind that they not only are unable to see beyond the United States, they can't even see beyond the simply marketing construct they've been sold.

So because I resoundingly condemn American Nationalism and Conservative politics, am I in any way advocating the positions and policies of the Democratic Party? Am I a political liberal?

I am Christian. I am the Lord's free man. I will not conform to these labels and ways of thinking about these issues! Not only do Evangelicals not agree with me, I find they usually cannot even understand what I'm talking about. Their 'worldview' has restricted them into seeing the world through a painfully narrow lens. Why? They're going about this all the wrong way. They're asking the wrong questions and thus have come up with the wrong answers. 
I argue as Christians we are bound to Pilgrim ethics which transcend the petty squabbles, and demagogic rhetoric employed by both sides. Rather than retreat and hide, I insist that we as Christians should be very aware of what is happening all around us both culturally and politically. Why? Because the un-vigilant sometimes deliberately and other times in innocence bring these ideas into the Church and often baptize them, confusing them with Holy Kingdom ideals. Or sometimes in a much more nefarious manner, those seeking power baptize their speech in order to deceive the simple.

I often ponder this as I listen to 'christian' radio, especially their news coverage. Are they really interested in reporting what's happening in the world? Are they really interested in examining and looking into issues, or do they already have 'worldview'-generated answers and they're just looking for different ways to dress it up each day?

The adjective 'Biblical' was employed repeatedly as well as the omnipresent term, "worldview."

We do indeed all have a worldview or a guiding philosophy. Even those who eschew such concepts nevertheless have them, and perhaps even their denial of holding to any philosophical view exhibits something of how they view the world, or how little they've thought about it. Since we all are guided by something, some overarching idea, it does behoove us to consider the issue and work it out.

We need to consider things like Authority, and how do we know what we know. How do we know what our authority is, and how do we apply it? This concept is called Epistemology for those unfamiliar with it. We don't need to be experts on these topics, but we should have a certain level of familiarity with them. There are many in the Church at present who decry such things and actually take pride in their simplicity and anti-intellectualism. Again, I'm not saying we all have to be scholars or experts, not do we have to engage in pseudo-intellectualism to please people. Thankfully we don't. But, as I always point out to a friend of mine who seems to glory in ignorance….you're a captive of whomever you've placed your trust in. That person, whether in person or via a book or tape or whatever…has become your authority. Refusing to wrestle with these issues, you've abandoned the tools you could have. You're digging with your hands where someone tells you to, when you have a shovel and map laying a few feet away that you've chosen to ignore.

I heard the radio announcer insist that they would give Biblical arguments for why we're obligated to vote. Usually at this point they pull out the "Render unto Caesar" argument which I've always found to be ridiculous. I can say with absolute certainty that's not what Jesus had in mind when he was speaking to the Herodians. If anything the verse is actually a flagship verse for the positions I'm advocating. He's insisting on the spheres being inseparable and never shall the twain meet. We live here in the world but are not of it. I take that back. They'll meet, but in the fires of judgment and not before.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear the guest turn to Jeremiah 29.7

And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

For those unfamiliar, this is Jeremiah's letter he was sending to the captives in Babylon, some of whom were quite restless. Unwilling to 'settle in' they were leaving the people in a state of anxiety. Jeremiah is telling them….you live in Babylon, that's where God wants you to be, and essentially you need to get used to it and the Lord will change the situation when the time is right.

More than that, there are theological lessons here concerning how we as Pilgrim/Exiles are to live in Babylon. It was a perfect example for the radio guest to turn to, and if there is a verse in the Bible that could be said to promote something like voting, than this it.

Seeking the peace of the city certainly implies that we can and ought to actively participate in the life of the city, or country if you prefer. So can we in some cases as citizens work hand in hand with the state? Yes.

Please note this distinction…..

As a Church should we do this? No. The mission of the Church is to build God's Kingdom through the proclamation of Jesus Christ. The state can't help in this task, and if the Church is doing the work of the state it has strayed from its task. Someone might say, I have a reductionistic view of the task of the Church. This may be the case, but I have yet to find any evidence from the New Testament that indicates otherwise.

We rightly render unto Caesar that which is Caesars…but we never confuse the things that belong to Caesar with the things that belong to God.

This is an intolerable concept to the adherents of Dominionism. The theology of Abraham Kuyper popularized by Francis Schaeffer is nothing more than Protestant Constantinianism with some intellectual muscle, i.e. philosophical coherence. This extra-Biblical system has constructed a Monistic view of the world foreign to the Bible. It's a very powerful tool for purposeful and focused cultural and civilizational construction, but it overthrows the very concept Christ was teaching…there are two kingdoms.

God Reigns as Creator over the universe, but not all the creation belongs to His Holy Realm. All are His creational children, but not all are in covenant with Him, not all are his offspring, His Seed as it were…which we are in our union with Christ.

Dominionism insists that not only does God Reign, but all in this age must become His Realm, totally obliterating the notion that we are Pilgrims. Dominionism would have us conquer and settle in for eternity. The Scriptures teach this world is fallen and must be destroyed, our hope being in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

Voting is certainly permissible. That could be a way of seeking the peace of the city. But it's not in every case a mandatory task. It's actually a matter of Christian liberty and thus conscience. I know some people who say there is absolutely no one to vote for. I sympathize. And I know others who say, for the sake of the greater good I'll choose the lesser of the evils….that may be indeed be valid in some cases. Where the Scriptures are silent, we must be as well.

Now the man on the radio admitted with some embarrassment I thought, that the verse applied to the exiles in Babylon. Why was he embarrassed or second guessing himself? Because the view they were promoting was not one of exiles in Babylon, but of Christians in a Christian nation, whatever that happens to be. The concept is foreign to the Scriptures. So the analogy didn't really fit the point he was trying to make. He candidly admitted that America was not Babylon.

But it is. So is England. So are Japan, Kenya, Argentina, and Australia. This is the part they don't seem to grasp. Just because the United States is a manifestation of Babylon so to speak, that doesn't mean I have to conquer it on the one hand, or disown it and flee from it on the other.

We are citizens of Babylon, but we're not of Babylon. We live here and want peace and prosperity for the gospel's sake, but we're never to try and promote Babylon, nor would we ever think for a moment we could transform it into God's Kingdom.

What if a Jewish leader had risen up and suggested, "Let's take over Babylon. Let's turn it into the Holy Land. We'll build a Temple right here along the Euphrates!"

If he wasn't immediately stoned, it would have been pointed out to him that only Israel is the Holy Land. The Temple can only be built on Mt. Zion. Never for a moment did the Jews in exile think that Babylon could become Israel. It seems absurd to even think of it. God initiates and delineates the boundaries of His Holy Realm. No Jew thought for a moment they could change that.

Our situation today is no different. Our Mt. Zion, our Jerusalem, our land of milk and honey is heaven. Eternally it already exists; in fact we're already there. Temporally we're still waiting for the new heavens and the new earth. This present realm, this present evil age will be consumed by fire. Heaven is our country. Is it not equally incongruous to think we could transform an earthly kingdom into the heavenly? When you identify a nation as Christian, you are in some sense, claiming it to be Holy…and thus part of the Holy Realm. Babylon is not the Holy Realm and never can be.

Israel was but a type, a shadow and even then it couldn't be done. How much more with the very substance itself? If the picture couldn't be replicated, the real thing certainly cannot.

Constantinianism engages the Church in a false Transformationalist construct. By defining the Church and the Kingdom of God in Civilizational/Cultural terms, it drives the Church into politics…lowering it actually, dragging it far below where it ought to be. If you doubt that, just look at our political campaigns, full of blasphemy, Scripture twisting, and sacrilege.

It distracts the Church from its task and confuses the people of God. They lose not only their sense of Pilgrim antithesis, they lose their identity…they become worldly and subject to its temptations in a way the Pilgrim Church does not.

You end up fighting the wrong battles for the wrong kingdom and using the wrong weapons.

If you work through the implications of that you'll realize this is more than a little serious. This is the life or death of the Church. This is why groups like the Waldensians and Lollards were willing to face death in order to preserve a Biblically faithful Church. They realized in terms of not only doctrine and worship, but in its very soul, its very purpose and identity, the medieval Roman church had lost its way and become a false church, another religion.

That's what Constantinianism is. If we do participate in the political and civil spheres of the city, we ought to keep this in mind. The City of Man is not holy, but common. Seeking the peace of the city is a Common Grace activity.

Living as Christians we seek to promote a peaceful venue in which the Church can work. The magistrate is to restrain evil? How is evil defined in this Romans 13 sense? Does Paul mean the magistrate is to wield the sword against those who teach Biblical error? Hardly. The evil in this sense does not reflect deviation from the Holy Law…or else we would look for the Magistrate to seek to destroy the wicked rather than convert them. This is exactly what many of the Theonomists wish for. They want the Civil Government to wield the sword against heresy, and then they have the audacious hypocrisy to stand out with the Tea Party lemmings and decry big government. They have no problem with big government. In fact they have no problem with Totalitarianism, as long as it is theirs.

This would be completely incompatible with Paul's sentiments in 1 Corinthians 5:

9  I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

10  Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

11  But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

12  For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?

13  But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

Our weapons, the Holy weapons of the Holy Kingdom are ecclesiastical.

So the evil in Romans 13 that the magistrate is to pursue with the sword must refer to deviations from what we would call, Natural Law and nothing more. All civilizations, more or less have grasped certain legally/culturally expressed moral concepts regarding things like murder, theft, perjury, and to greater or lesser degrees sexual sin. God sometimes pulls back the restraint and you end up with an Aztec bloodbath or Phoenician perversity. But you can also have societies which exhibit a remarkable degree of order and restraint and for a fallen world, pretty decent moral sense. They're always imperfect, but we're not looking for perfection this side of glory. What are we looking for? Nothing more than a venue for the gospel to work. We simply want (as the Scriptures teach clearly) a quiet life working with our hands, minding our own business and being salt and light where God has placed us. We might be slaves, we might be free, we might be wed or unwed. It doesn't really matter.

Again, Dominionism cannot tolerate Paul's lessons in 1 Corinthians, or his lessons regarding the type of life we should desire. (1 Thes. 4.11, and 1 Tim. 2)

Our mission is to conquer the cultural 'spheres.' Strange that the Apostles and certainly Christ himself seemed to omit this teaching.

What is a greater evil, those who would pervert the civil sphere or the spiritual? What is more harmful, a law that legalizes pot smoking or laws that promote a theology that leads God's people astray? I hope you see that for some unbelievers to inhale smoke from a plant hardly compares to professing Christians trying to convince God's people that Babylon is really Israel, or that it can be. What's more wicked, a law concerning unjust taxes, or laws that drive the unbelievers to conform to Holy Ethics, to be compelled to behave as Christians? What response does this generate among the unregenerate? Do they not blaspheme God and hate His people?

At that point, are they hating His people because of the offense of the Cross…or because they're being forced to conform to Holy Law. Make no mistake, keeping Holy Law, following Holy Law (Commandments) is nothing less than worship. When you're making unbelievers act as Christians, you're forcing them to worship.

But Romans 8.7-8 teaches us:

7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.


Proverbs 15:8  The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.

Proverbs 28:9  He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.

The unbeliever being unregenerate cannot 'hear' the law. The idea is more than mere audio recognition.

So what should we think then of all these 'christians' trying to force Christian America and Christian Law on all the unbelievers?

And then these same laws confuse God's people and make them think that not only is Babylon the Holy Nation, but the Babylonians are really Jews, even if they don't know it?

Perhaps in seeking the peace of the city, rather than worry about promoting unbelievers and their laws….which are often seeking the peace of the city, we ought to worry about those who in the name of Christ promote a false religion and actually seek the harm of the city. Maybe we ought to become involved, not to transform Babylon, but specifically to oppose the grasping for power on the part of the Constantinians?

Are they not the greater threat both to the peace of the city as well as the Kingdom of God? Historically Constantinianism unleashed a multi-century bloodletting in the name of Christ and is responsible for millions of souls being condemned to hell.

Don't be confused by sharp haircuts, smiling faces, pious speech.

Don’t be fooled by spiritual whores pretending to be godly mothers…

Who claim to speak for Christ, but instead promote the idolatry of Nationalism, the horrors of Militarism, think godliness means great wealth, promoting the love of money and of self. These wolves deceive the simple, teaching them to despise their neighbours and the rest of the world, the people we're supposed to show love and compassion to. They are more concerned with you knowing and venerating some two hundred year old documents than the Word of God.

Do I think Christians in America are simple? Do I think they are deceived?

Yes. They speak of applying the Bible to all areas of life, but they've failed to apply it to their intellect, the starting point. Their idolatry and foolishness, (that's a moral term) has prevented them from looking at and interacting with the world in a Biblical fashion. The very thing they wish to do, they've rejected. Their worldview is not Christian at all, but completely dominated by the cultural paradigm they've been given. They can't seem to operate outside the grid the culture gives to them. What they call Biblical Worldview, I call Nationalistic Propaganda. What they call Christianity I call Christo-Americanism, the American version of Constantinianism, a false religion.

Christ said you have to be born again to SEE the Kingdom of God. They don't seem to see it at all.


akaGaGa said...

laws that drive the unbelievers to conform to Holy Ethics, to be compelled to behave as Christians? What response does this generate among the unregenerate?

Not only does forcing all to behave as Christians give an erroneous impression that Christianity is brought about by force; it puts the unregenerated in the position of choosing: they can submit, and become another hypocritical Christian; or they can refuse and go to jail. Neither choice furthers Christianity.

When you identify a nation as Christian, you are in some sense, claiming it to be Holy…and thus part of the Holy Realm

And when you claim a nation is Christian, everything that nation does reflects on Christ - including killing 100,000 innocent civilians in Iraq ... and Afghanistan ... and Pakistan. And what does this tell Muslim Iraqis about Jesus?

Good post, John. Glad I finally got some time to visit.

Anonymous said...

I never cease to be impressed with your insight. Thanks again.

donsands said...

"And when you claim a nation is Christian, everything that nation does reflects on Christ - including killing 100,000 innocent civilians in Iraq ... and Afghanistan ... and Pakistan."

And killing 1,500,000 babies in the womb each year. Where the doctors who kill these babies makes lots of $$$$$$$$.

I'm registered as a Republican. No big deal really. I love Christ, and the Gospel foremost, and I am an American, who votes for pro-life representatives. It's very telling if someone thinks killing babies is more of a right for someone, then the baby's right to live.

Protoprotestant said...

Well, that's kind of one of my points. See, I don't think the pro-life Republicans are really pro-life either. Militarism and American foreign policy are hardly promoting a 'life' agenda.

I'm not sure if you're suggesting it, but just because I'm critical of the Republicans and the Christian Right by no means suggests that I'm saying you should run out and vote Democratic.

We don't have to accept the paradigm we are provided. A right view of the Kingdom and our place in the world provides us the ability to sit back and view what's really happening. Most of the time, it's not even about these specific issues. It's about power. The issues that harped on the most, like abortion seem in the end to be more of marketing ploys of those seeking power. They tug at heartstrings and play on religious convictions, but those in power evidently care little about really promoting these specific agendas or really representing the views of their constituents.

The promote themselves and do everything they can to hold onto the power they have and make the connections and friends that will allow them, once they leave office, to do very nicely.

I fail to understand the Republican loyalty when they've done virtually nothing to stop abortion. A lot of people are one issue voters, but realistically is anything going to happen this cycle, or the next, or the one following, that even affects the status of abortion? It's not even on the table right now.

And the Republican leadership knows it, so they invented lies about the health care plan supporting abortion. I don't care if you're for or against the health care plan, time and time again news organizations, fact-checkers etc... combed the pages of the legislation and insisted it was not funding abortion.

That mattered little to the leadership of the right. Their tactic? It's often the same. Just keep saying it over and over again, regardless of whether or not it's true. They did the same with the dumb birth certificate, and 'christian' Sarah Palin did the same thing with the death panels.

don sands said...

"I fail to understand the Republican loyalty when they've done virtually nothing to stop abortion."

I'm not loyal. When you have an Obama, who is pro-partial birth abortion, (now there's a saying that's crazy), and McCain, who says he will try to overturn Roe, then I vote against Obama.

So I am voting against more than for.

I agree that the Washington DC crowd is very corrupt. And perhaps the same thing would happen to me if I was elected.
But I hope I would be a principled man, and stand with a back-bone and not give in to power and mammon in DC.

have a blessed Lord's day.

Protoprotestant said...

I certainly understand voting against rather than for. It would seem that's about all we can do.

I think your statement about the corruption of DC shows some real wisdom. I absolutely think that many freshman politicians venture there with pure motives, but then once in the thick of it not only do they succumb to the temptations, but they find the whole thing is so big and complex...I'm sure they find it overwhelming and find unless they latch on to a party insider, you have absolutely zero hope of accomplishing anything.

I'm in complete agreement. I couldn't do it. There's no way. I wouldn't be able to sleep at night or look at myself in the mirror. Even if I wasn't taking suitcases full of cash, it's the manipulation, the deception and games that I find unpalatable.

You can't swim in a septic tank and come out smelling like roses. So that raises the question....should we as Christians even be trying to engage in these endeavours?

I'm not answering yes or no. I lean no because of the circumstances and the setting. Could I say yes in some cases? Perhaps.

Historically the people I admire the most rejected the temptation of power and yet were working mightily for the Lord.

I totally understand the desire for people to want to make their society and country a better place to live. I think we can and perhaps ought to do that...praying for the peace of the city.

But I do think we've got to keep some clear distinctions in our minds as to what we are doing and hoping to accomplish.

Nice exchange. I believe we ran into each other awhile back over at the Steve Camp site.

God bless.