11 February 2011

Going Down to Egypt pt.2- The Limits of the Common Order

A couple of additional comments....

In Acts we do see Paul making use of the Roman authorities. He's not afraid to appeal to his citizenship as we see in the Phillipi episode as well as the riot in Jerusalem. (Acts 16 & 22)

But this does not mean that Paul expected Rome (or any other magistrate) to help him in his tasks in promoting the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

What would be an instance in which a Christian might appeal to the state in order to help brethren in another country? Or to put it differently, on what basis and with what expectation could we appeal to a state?



The basis would be our citizenship in a Common Grace nation with a Common expectation. The state cannot grasp our heavenly citizenship. We shouldn't expect more, nor should we expect the state to take up our cause. This limits the scope of what is really possible...but that doesn't mean that even lost people lack compassion. We should stand for a society that allows freedom of conscience and hope that our actions, our compassion and tolerance of others will extend to us as well.

Tolerate sin? Paul didn't seem to concerned in 1 Corinthians 5 with the social construct. Lost people are just that...lost. If we live in a society that allows freedom of conscience, we will benefit. Sinners will too, but isn't that preferrable to our being silenced? Instead today we have Christians who seek to transform society and make it into something it cannot be...Holy. And in the end rather than show compassion to the lost, the lost will be crushed.

A note to new readers.....when I say Common Grace, I am making a distinction between Redemptive Grace which is unmerited favour shown by the Almighty in order to forgive sin and reconcile people to God.

Common Grace is also unmerited favour, or mercy shown by God to fallen humanity...not to redeem or save but to establish an order or matrix for the gospel to function and by extension demonstrate God's mercy and longsuffering.

Due to the fall, as the offspring of Adam....we all deserve death. But in His mercy, he let Adam and all humanity continue to live. Not only do we deserve death, but we deserve to be completely abandoned by Him. The fact that we have consciences, some remnant of the image of God within us...is a form of Grace. It doesn't save us, but it allows the world to function. It allows the world to work even when under a curse. We don't deserve the small mercies we experience, even things like the rain and sunshine. These are examples of God's kindness...and it serves a purpose.

Some object to referring to this as grace. It's critical that it be distinguished from the Grace that redeems. It's called Common not because it's ordinary, but because it's Common to all mankind.

Some of have rightly observed that those who are not redeemed will in the end fall under greater condemnation for partaking of this Common Grace. They are accountable...their consciences and living in a world governed by even the crudest forms of natural law only increases their guilt. So in that sense, for them grace will turn to condemnation.

The Common Grace order will burn up when Christ returns, but in the meantime we live here in our various Babylons...and we are to pray for the peace of the city, marry, build our houses etc.... We can appeal to the state, but we cannot expect it to do something beyond what it is capable of doing.

The state cannot declare itself Christian, nor can it impose the Kingdom on another nation. Even fallen man has picked up on things like human rights and though fallen man quickly ruins and perverts these concepts...it's on this basis that we can appeal to the state, and on some reserved level participate with unbelievers. We turn to the state, not hoping in man's innate goodness or some other fiction, we can turn to the state trusting in Providence, that God guides the hand and hearts of kings.

Happily could we stand with non-Christians in 1989 and condemn the actions of the Beijing government as it crushed the people in Tianamen Square. Even non-Christians knew there was something wrong with what was happening. We can stand with them...with the nations of the world, and condemn such actions. We don't have to be silent, but we err when we start to think in terms of, "our country is good and they're bad." That's not theologically accurate. Our state or any other has no claim to righteousness.

But in addition to standing with the unbeliever in recognizing the wrong, we have another message one which gives people in power a reason to be humbled and one that gives the oppressed a new hope. There will always be this antithesis, and it must always be kept in mind lest we lose our identity. We can hold hands with the unbelievers....sometimes, and with reserve.

Even fallen man can see something like human rights....but how quickly they pervert it! No doubt homosexuals and others have been treated very poorly in our societies..as less than human. But now....everything has been flipped on its head and tolerance isn't good enough....acceptance is mandated.

This situation has been exacerbated by the past record....a Christian societal veneer treating non-conformists as something less than human. Now we suffer retribution and political blowback. Hopefully in time, the fad will die down and instead of blowback it will blow over.

But at the moment, rather than reflect and repent...the Christian Right has grown defiant.

But again in the case of American Christians appealing to Washington DC... a bit counterproductive.

Kerby Anderson doesn't think so, neither does CrossTalk who after putting out a childish smear-piece on Muslims, then aired a program urging everyone to call their congressman and sign petitions. Yesterday, I smiled (but not in amusement) as I heard the following on the radio:

I offer a few comments at the end.........

Persecuted Christians



by Kerby Anderson



Egypt has been in the news lately because of the riots and unrest. But there are other another troubling stories out of this country. Egyptian Christians have a weekly routine: "Before we go to church we have to kiss our families goodbye, because we may never see them again."



The reason for the routine is simple. Terrorists detonated a bomb at Saints Church in Alexandria as worshippers left a New Year's Eve service. The attack killed at least 23 of those attending Mass as the Coptic Christian church.



Attacks like this have been taking place not only in Egypt but in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Middle East countries. For example, you may remember when 70 people were killed at the Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Add to that violence in Nigeria, where armed men and bombers killed over 40 in a Christmas Eve attack.



This is why Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) has introduced legislation calling for the creation of a special envoy in the U.S. State Department for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia.



Representative Wolf was on my radio program recently documenting the various incidents in which Christians have been persecuted. He serves as the co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and is recognized as a leading voice for the persecuted around the world.



He pointed out that the number of incidents have increased in recent months. And the incidents in Egypt, Iraq, and other places are not an anomaly. Other religious minorities are also under attack.



Conditions for Egyptian Christians are extremely difficult. It is next to impossible to build or renovate a church, with an application process that can takes decades. Muslims who convert to Christianity are not allowed to change their religious affiliation on state-issued identity cards. Authorities sometimes arrest converts, and often fail to prosecute those who bring violence against Christians.



I applaud Representative Wolf who has been a voice for the voiceless, persecuted Christians around the world. And I support his efforts to create a special envoy for religious minorities. I'm Kerby Anderson, and that's my point of view.


Proto:

I've said this before and it sounds insensitive but these ethnic groups that identify as Christian are not Christians in the sense we would mean it. They're Christian because they belong to an ethnic grouping that did not convert to Islam during the last several hundred years. They maintained their religion...which by the time Islam arrived was already far removed from the Bible...and often they maintained their language and some of their customs.

It doesn't occur to Anderson or this Congressional Representative that part of the reason these people are being persecuted directly results from Western Imperial policies?

Imperialism has radicalised a once marginal and nominal Middle East. This has been happening for over a century. The Americans did not start it, but they sure have helped it along.

Many of these groups were duped into aiding the 'christian' empires and some like the Assyrians are still paying for it. And this goes beyond the Middle East. I think of the Montagnards in Vietnam and the Hmong in Laos. They continue to pay a price for allying with the Empires.

So will this Congressman have success in Pakistan or Afghanistan? Will not his very presence just further outrage the public? Some may not think so. Some have not bothered to consider the effects of American policy in these and other countries.

With countries like Nigeria, it is a more complicated situation. Part of the problem is the entire map of West Africa is something of a fiction. Many of the countries are not nations in the sense we would understand the term. Many peoples have suffered because of very badly drawn lines on maps as departing Imperial powers unknowingly sent a parting shot almost guaranteeing strife and division.

There are multi-layered struggles going on in West Africa. Sometimes the divide is between Christian and Muslim, but more often than not labelling the divide in such a way has very little to do with theology and everything to do with culture clash. The people on the northern fringe of many of these countries fall within the southernmost cultural sphere of the Sahara...the Middle East, the Arab and Muslim world.

While many of the people in the south live along verdant coastlines and belong to a different cultural realm...Sub-Saharan Africa. They have different values and different cultures, and they are battling over power, resources and in some cases both sides are being exploited by external forces.

In any case, we should be praying for peace, not because one side is 'christian' and the other side is pagan....but because all this strife is tragic and heartbreaking. And though we can't keep up with all of it, we should be paying at least some attention, that way we will not be deceived by propaganda and the next time a president stands up and says we need to invade country X,Y, or Z...we of all people will know better.

People like Kerby Anderson are interested in Culture War, and ultimately power. Casting geo-politics in terms of theology and a Clash of Civilizations helps them to segregate the world into simple blocks and clear equations. It is a powerful way to market their agenda as the average person is not going to bother looking into the complexities of a situation. And many of these 'average' people are also in positions of power. They have an agenda and people are handing them money...consequently they are happy to turn to Kerby Anderson and like minded 'think-tanks' for the answers and sometimes even the agenda. Maybe Rep. Wolf is sincere. I don't know, but he's misguided and naive regarding the country he represents.

Anderson like Chuck Colson and other Dominionists have re-defined what a Christian is. They self-identify as Evangelicals and speak of being Born Again, but will also speak of another category of Christian....basically someone in the Western tradition or someone who is a citizen in a country that aspires to emulate the Western tradition. This is why Nancy Pearcy and other Dominionists can look to blatant pagans who contributed to the Western artistic canon and refer to them as 'christian' in some form.

The Bible knows nothing of this definition of Christian nor the other concepts that flow from it...Christian Civilization and Christian Nations, and thus Christian geo-politics. In the end, Anderson and people like him are very confused. They've misidentified the Kingdom and now they're fighting the wrong battles.

Is it any surprise they think they're bringing glory to God when they go down to Egypt for help?

Nevertheless let us continue to pray for those being persecuted in other lands and let us fight the good fight with the Biblical Gospel. Let's reject the Dominionist Social Gospel which wields propaganda instead of proclamation and Predator drones instead of prayer.

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