20 January 2012

Focus on Sacralist Jurisprudence 5

Part 5- The Inevitable Road to Violence and Revolution

-My apologies. This conclusion comes weeks late. I'm trying to tidy up some loose ends and I have a tendency to have too many things going at once. Time gets away from me and suddenly I realize these last couple of posts for this series should have been put up weeks ago. I could easily write several articles and commentaries a day, but I don't have enough time. I end up with a series of partially finished pieces and works in progress.

This hasn't been a very popular series either. My ability to strike a chord is rather hit and miss...With regard to this topic, people either aren't interested, don't see the importance, or already see it and perhaps are bored with the topic? I'm not sure. Anyway, these last segments address some of the real concerns I have...what I believe to be the telos of this whole trend in Evangelicalism with regard to politics and the law. The previous installments can be found here: http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/2011_11_01_archive.html

Part 5 

One more example and some final thoughts....

While I was finishing up this series I heard Al Mohler talking about some related issues. On his show he was discussing the case of a couple in California running into trouble with a local zoning board because of a Bible study at their house.

Many will have heard something of this before, either this specific case or one like it. Mohler argued that if a wedding reception was happening, no one would question it, but the anti-Christian city won't allow the study of God's Word and prayer. As usual, a bit of an oversimplification.


First of all they apparently have about 50 people showing up every week, and that's weekly, in other words on a regular basis... not a unique event like a wedding reception. Fifty is a pretty substantial group, with undoubtedly a lot of cars. I can see why neighbours might complain. It depends on the circumstances, the parking in the neighbourhood and so forth.

This does not excuse the city's zoning board. I'm guessing rather than overt Christian persecution it's a case of an overly zealous and typically self-important group of bureaucrats. I deal with these folks all the time. Many of them remind me of Barney Fife from the old Andy Griffith Show. They want so badly for everyone to know how important they are and yet often they're pretty incompetent. That's not universal of course, but I've seen it more than a few times.

So what's the solution? How do you solve this problem of Christians being hassled by a local government entity?

I would say the Christian response is this- If you believe you are doing right and they are asking you to sin in ceasing the activity, then keep on doing it regardless of the consequences all the while being polite and respectful.

Keep having the Bible study. When they fine you...the group (not the individual) should pay. When they throw you in jail...the group should show up and encourage the homeowner. Bring food for the guards and prisoners.

The idea is to be salt and light. Shame them into dropping the charges, changing the rules, or be patient....others in the community will eventually rise up and toss the corrupt officials out of power.

We've seen the Amish employ these tactics around here. Eventually the officials feel like fools when they keep harassing these peaceful people that just want to be left alone. The others in the community start speaking out....leave them alone. It often works.

If it doesn't....oh well.

The Sacralist response is to sue the local government and demand our rights.

In a nearby town a local 'church' (though I can't really call it that) wanted a downtown storefront for their place of meeting. The city government resisted. I don't know the details but I did hear parking issues were involved. There are a number of nearby restaurants and I can see why they wouldn't appreciate the parking logjam.

Of course if you're a Sabbatarian Sacralist (believing the Sabbath applies to the unbeliever as well) this might be viewed as a way to make them keep the 4th commandment...hinder their Sunday business. I doubt that was what motivated this particular 'church', but I wouldn't put similar ideas past them. The so-called pastor used to write a column in the local paper, so his ideas are somewhat known.

Nevertheless, there was a tussle, the so-called church sued the city and won. In fact there's sort of an ongoing battle in this little town. The community consists of a large numbers of Evangelicals, Baptists and Holiness groups, as well as a large population of non-church goers, many associated with the local university. It's sad that when my family (with my wife and daughters in skirts that day) walk into a local shop, the owner gets nervous. It's a kind of 'hippie' store that carries handmade crafts, jewelry, and 'Fair Trade' items from the 3rd world. It's the type of establishment that is not frequented by American Evangelicals, it's associated with things 'liberal' and so forth. The guy sees us and assumes we're Christians, but then he assumes we're there to make trouble, lecture him, force literature on him or something. He had received opposition in getting the store open.

Free markets for all right? A level playing field right? It rarely happens. And when I hear Christians appeal to these concepts...sorry, but I rarely believe them. More often than not, they don't mean it. They are not for free markets when segments of the marketplace violate their vision for society. In the present 2012 Republican primaries, Rick Santorum is making this position pretty clear.

We had a great talk with the guy and as we walked out we shook our heads at the behaviour of the local Christian community. What a great witness for Christ. That's being salt and light? The guy probably doesn't like Christians, because of the offense of the gospel? Hardly. He doesn't like them because they're a mean, power hungry lot that obviously despises anyone who doesn't agree with them.

Sorry for the aside. Back to the Bible study in California...

What's wrong with this group suing the city? Shouldn't we stand up for our rights? If we don't, won't the unbelievers just keep taking advantage of us? Don't we have the same rights as other citizens? Didn't Paul appeal to the law to protect himself?

Paul was willing enough to appeal to the law and his status as a citizen in order to keep from being scourged by the Romans in Jerusalem. And, we need not to be afraid to call out officials who are breaking the law themselves and abusing their power as the city rulers were in Philippi. While they may sound like suing for justice, there's a key difference. Paul wasn't trying to take over the power paradigm. Or to put it another way...was Paul going to go to the magistrate and argue for force (Roman soldiers) to enforce the law for the Church or to get justice? Would he have called on a higher magistrate to come and scourge and imprison the corrupt magistrates who violated the law by throwing him into prison? That certainly would have been the penalty for their abuse of power.

I'm all for speaking truth to power...but with the right paradigm, the right understanding. If we're doing it...it's not to become a competing power...but to be a witness. That is not the case with 99% of American Christianity. It's not witness based...it's political. It has a political agenda with distinct legislative goals tied in with some form of sacral theology. This is not what you find with Paul. Study the passages in Acts and weigh them versus what has happened throughout Church history and what is happening today. Those who argue pagan Rome is to be differentiated from a Christian America or even a non-persecuting secular America are making a theological statement with regard to the state. I'm saying...all states in the modern era are pagan Rome's, or Babylon's. How you answer this question is key to understanding the issues and the host of questions that arise as we seek to live out our Christian lives in society.

Remember government is the power to compel, it's legitimate force. It's power backed up by violence. There's a reason for it, and sadly it's necessary, but there's an inherent danger in wielding the power and a terrible consequence if the Church starts looking to this power for either sanction, validation, protection, or promotion.

The modern Evangelical Church is engaged in all four. The lawsuit is but a stepping stone, a tool, or a weapon to bring about larger goals.

I’m not against litigation in every instance. In fact it serves a vital role in our society. I’m not against speaking truth to power.

I am against using litigation as a political weapon. I am against the Church using litigation as means to accomplish its goals.

It’s bad for both Church and society.



12 comments:

Cal said...

Have you ever heard of Greg Boyd? Now let me say I do not agree with his Open Theism (though he is very nuanced and is not making God blind). Despite this, I love the man as a brother in Messiah, he has got a heart for Jesus and the Kingdom and find a lot of his messages great.

Anyway, back in 2004 a lot of evangelicals were signing a letter of support for Bush. The letter landed on his desk and many other evangelicals pressured him to sign the letter. So what does he do? He gives a series of sermons called "The Sword and The Cross" and denounces Christians selling out for politics and slams the constantinian attempt at take over. About 1000 people left his congregation (out of 4000).

A couple of months ago, he also has a radio debate with another pastor in the Minneapolis area over the issue of a church (or religious body) giving a political endorsement losing their tax-exempt status. The one pastor says, I endorsed a candidate and I hope they come after me so I can beat them in court! Boyd says, essentially, that's not the Kingdom, we're to obey authorities and spread Jesus not any candidate. The other guy hits him over the head as living in a fantasy world. (Interview and Transcript are here: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/09/30/pastors-pulpit-politics/)


It's really odd. Before I was regenerate, I looked at the "evangelicals" as really strange but helpful to the political cause of American exceptionalism. That's how all of them think, they're a bunch of foolish social activist that can be bought off for a support for a couple issues here and there. I can only wonder what Reagan and George HW said about them behind closed doors.

Protoprotestant said...

Sure I've heard of Boyd. I have perused his book several times. At first I was quite excited about him...and I'm glad he's saying what he's saying.

Sadly the Open Theism is a major stumbling block...I'm afraid for Evangelicals they just nod their heads and say...yup, see we're right. Leftist theology and politics go hand and hand.

That has often been the case, but not always. Of course with someone like Boyd, you or me...we're rejecting the whole Left/Right paradigm. They would tag me as being Left...but that would doesn't make any sense. Bible believing homeschoolers aren't usually tagged as being Lefties.

If Left means anti-Conservative or anti-Establishment...then sure, I'm EXTREME left.

What Boyd is doing is great...his witness would be ten-fold if he was more conservative. Aside from the Open Theism and his rejection of Constantinianism, I'm not really sure where he at....other doctrinal issues etc...

I guess I view it as yet another episode that just shames the Evangelicals. Here's some guy that has what might be called a rather low view of Scripture and of God and yet he still 'gets it' far more than they do. Their power has blinded them.

As far as Reagan, HW, or even W, Rove, Cheney....I think they laugh at all these guys...they're a bunch of malleable dupes.

What letter are you referring to? At first I thought you meant the Land Letter, but I think you mean something else??? The signers of the Land Letter will answer to God...some (Kennedy and Bright) already have.

Cal said...

It depends on what issues for Boyd. He takes Scripture very highly and uses it for everything he does and argues. He's more of a biblicist than most who call themselves 'conservative'.

On some issues he could be considered 'liberal' by American evangelicals. However he is very 'conservative' on other issues. On those 'liberal' issues I'd even agree with him more or less (ie. I accept evolution, albeit with the direct hand of God involved; while I hate labels, I'd rather be labled an 'egalitarian' than 'complimentarian' that comes out of the 'council on biblical manhood/womanhood').

I can only say that he takes a strong view of Scripture, and is a much more loyal to the text on the important matters than so called 'conservatives' who ought to be Romish.

But then again, maybe I'm a dirty liberal. Whatever, I try and stand with Jesus as revealed in Scriptures. :)

My bad, it wasn't a letter in the same way of the Land Letter. Rather he was written a letter to join in the Evangelical support for re-electing George Bush and supporting him.

Protoprotestant said...

It's interesting how many theological 'liberals' are willing to be quite literal when it comes to NT imperatives, while 'conservatives' will often employ system driven hermeneutics to explain away the literal reading.

In some cases it's systematics that is the problem, and for the other camp...their lack of system can appear to be playing fast and loose with the Scripture...and sometimes is and sometimes isn't.

That wasn't meant to be any kind of sentence. I'm thinking of CS Lewis, who had a profound understanding of Christianity and yet was pretty dismal in terms of theological orthodoxy.

I guess we have to keep going back to fundamental questions like...what is the Bible?

A theological source book, raw material for us to shape into a system?

A redemptive-history revealing Jesus Christ?

An ethical imperative rooted in the person and work of Christ?

It's all these things and much more, but as with everything there are dangers when we focus on one thing to the exclusion of others. We all do it, but think we're not.

Theological Liberal means different things to different people and at different times. Schaff was a liberal in his day...but by today's standards, he would seem quite conservative.

As far as some of the other issues you raise..yeah, we would definitely differ. For me, I'm willing to allow for a pretty wide latitutude if someone's spirit is right...their motive. There are points of no return/crisis...historical adam vs. adam the hominid.

We're all egalitarian in the eschatological sense which has an Already application to be sure. But in terms of form/administration...there's still a differentiation. I understand this issue (and many like it) dialectically...the tension being between the Already and Not Yet.

I guess what I sort of tried to get at in the other piece on these issues and many like it....the synthesis position usually is kind of right, but short-sighted. I usually tend toward the dialectical tension...embracing Egalitarian/Patriarchal at the same time. Doesn't that make one a Complimentarian? Maybe, but I often find it's a matter of how it is framed and the method employed to solve and resolve (systemize) the issues. I don't know if that makes any sense.

I guess I didn't realize the Leadership was circulating such a letter. Shame on them.

Cal said...

I agree on the systematics and lack thereof issue. You have to understand what happens in Ancient Israel during the Mosaic covenant in light of the Messiah and be quite literal with many of the commands Jesus gives. Many times you see people lob the Leviticus verse about the gays (which while I think homosexual acts are sin, arguing from Leviticus is foolish) yet try and string up "love your enemies" with all sorts of conditionals so it is utterly useless.

I agree with certain points of no return but I try and be cautious. It's all about the fruit of the Spirit. Take someone like Isaac Newton, I don't think we really know. He driften to Arianism, but does that make him unregenerate? Or someone like Luther who understood a great deal but went on a murderous rage against the Jews, considered himself a prophet and advocated the peasants of Germany slaughtered. What do we make of him? We should be discerning and use wisdom but willing to leave judgment to Jesus.

For complimentarianism, I'm so wary. I've seen the fruit of 'patriarcy/quiverfull' movement and it's scary and leaves people ruined. I don't want a mousy house-wife. I've seen the abuse done by men lording over their wives, their daughters, other women. I'm all for men being men and women being women, and there is certain realities of behavior. That's why the labels are so confusing, it leaves negative tastes in peoples mouths.

For the comment on Adam, what do you mean 'Adam the hominid' vs. Historical Adam?

And yes, again it's all in the Spirit of God. I'll call you my brother and I hope you call me yours.

I derailed the convo by all the injection, but I've had too much time on my hands and I've been spending too much time reading blogs. Then again, it is nice to always have someone comment!

Peace,
Cal

Protoprotestant said...

No problem on the derailing/rabbit trailing. Life is much more interesting that way.

I agree...the Judgment belongs to Christ. I'm not worried about trying to look into people's hearts to see if they're regenerate. In fact a big part of my theological argument regarding ecclesiology and Covenant is rooted in the fact that we don't have to that...and we can't.

That said, we use the Means provided. We are to judge fruit but even that's tough isn't it?

Take Lewis again...would you look to the technical aspects of his theology as fruit? which might be bad.

Or would you look to his big picture understanding...as expressed in Narnia for example, which I would say is for the most part...superbly excellent.

Or his life testimony? Pretty compelling, at least I think so.

And then even as I write this, I'm convicted. I don't want to judge, and I sure wouldn't want myself subjected to that criteria.

I guess for me...and I think about this often...I'm not into judging hearts, which I can't do. If I was a Church Elder then to some extent you have to, but even that must be limited and with a certain understanding of limitation.

What I want to judge is the issue of fellowship. What I mean is, I might believe some of the local attendees of the Arminian Dispensational Christo-American Republican Baptist Church are bona fide Christians...but I'm not going to fellowship with them. I can't. It would be wrong for me to join with them in worship etc....

Luther? He was a flawed giant but mostly a disaster in my book. He did some good, got many things dreadfully wrong, and was really bad on some other things. I'd be happy to quaff down some Franziskaner with him but I wouldn't want to go to Church with him.

So I guess that's my judgment angle...it's not about the heart, it's about fellowship and joining together in terms of agenda. I think there are many Christians deceived by the American Idol. I'm sure we'll all get it straightened out in Eternity, but at present I'm conscience and duty bound to resist them.

Adam....what I meant was...was there a historical person named Adam? The reason it's so important is because Christ is the 2nd Adam and our understanding of his person and work is tied to this whole concept. If Adam was just a pre-human hominid or not even a historical reality...then Paul's got a big problem with his argument in the NT...and thus the NT itself is entirely recast and cannot be understood canonically.

Protoprotestant said...

With regard to the Patriachal bit...

By some people's standards our home is Patriarchal. I run the house. But I don't run around pointing out to everyone that I run the house.

I run the house...but I would fall apart in about ten seconds if it wasn't for my wife. She's my best friend, my helper...and there's certainly no pretensions with her. She knows me better than anyone...it's quite scary to be that vulnerable.

I respect her opinion above all others and often look to her for wisdom. She often blows me away with her insight. She reads very little of what I write here. She doesn't have the time and besides...we talk about this stuff every day. She already knows what I'm saying. She's heard it all 100x before. I would be quite lost without her. Being married to her has been rewarding and beneficial to me...and quite humbling. We are madly and terribly in love with each other. We have something very special and we know it too. We don't fight...ever. There's no need to. It's not that we see eye to eye 100% of the time. We respect each other and know each other far too well to let it escalate into a fight.

Actually it's mostly her that deserves the credit. She knows when I'm venting and does the best thing in the world...she listens to me and doesn't respond. Later...15mins or 5 hours we talk about it. I've calmed down, reflected and we dialogue. Thankfully it's never about us...usually it's my frustrations with kids, job, Church, or something else.

Anyway, pardon the ramble...what I'm trying to get at is...and perhaps it's clear? I'm totally dependent on her. Our relationship is symbiotic. She's totally dependent on me...in fact I have to push her sometimes to be independent in case I drop dead or something. We are a unit.

But in terms of how the house runs...mom's the backbone and Dad's the general.

It's not a case of she's the neck that turns the head. We don't manipulate each other...don't need to. We know each other, which means we're both very vulnerable. I'm not the detached guy that she can play like a fiddle that she pretends to respect. I could crush her with a single word, and she could do the same to me.

It's about trust, but it all works because of the roles. The family needs her matronly care and her softening influence (often on me!) and the family desperately needs my leadership and resolve...the ability to decide something and say this is what we're going to do.

Only a fool would ignore his wife in that process...unless he married an airhead, which happens sometimes. That sounds mean, but some folks just aren't all that bright...they need spouses too!

Though my wife is both smart and wise, I would be a fool to let her run the show...she doesn't want to...in fact she takes tremendous comfort in the fact that she doesn't have to. But many guys (especially these days) do let their wives run the show and the family gets distorted. Sometimes the wife ends up running the thing by default because the guy is bodily present but so detached that he might as well not be there. I do see that in a lot of Conservative type homes. That can also be very destructive.

Patriarchy as a theological position is one thing...the Amish are partriarchal too. When it's wedded to Dominion Theology...ah, now we're into a whole different kettle of fish. Now it's about a mission, conquest and culture war. The blowback from failed Dominionist Patriarchal families is terrible...apostasies and sin.

Cal said...

Amen to the judgment, couldn't have put it all in better terms of means.

As for Adam, I've read interesting things on all sides of the question of Genesis and what scientific data says. As for myself, I believe there to be a historic Adam. I just didn't know what you meant by 'Adam the hominid', I don't know of anyone that argues Adam was a hominid. It usually is either rooted in federal headship, covenant or it's true myth. I'd probably fall in the first category.

As for your marriage, that's what I'm talking about. How do you put an 'ism' to that? I think what Paul says should be enough, there are 1000 books out on being a better husband or wife and they're mostly junk.

Anonymous said...

You know...I think, and this is my opinion, right or wrong...if home bible studies are filling up residential streets with cars every single week, imposing on other's rights of living in a residential neighborhood...they need to do something about that study. Carpool, invest in a few vans...do something for Petey's sake. It's just rude, and honestly, a very poor witness for Christ. Sometimes Christians don't think about how their actions, no matter how righteous their intent may be affect others around them. Filling a quiet neighborhood with 50 cars would tick me off...christian or not. It's imposing on other people. Either cut down the cars and the noise, split up the numbers or meet somewhere else. That's just my 2 cents.

BTW, another great series...is this one done yet? I have it scheduled at my place, but want to make sure if there is another installment that I catch that link to. I'll just keep checking back.

Dawn

Protoprotestant said...

Thanks Dawn,

You've hit another important point...sometimes just because we have the 'right' to do something, doesn't mean it is the wisest and most considerate course. Sometimes Christians are disliked, because they can be self-centered and self-focused.

Thanks for your kind words. There's one more part which I hope to get out tonight or tomorrow morning. It's done, I just have to read over it one more time.

Protoprotestant said...

Correction, two more parts. Often when I re-read...4 or 5 pages turn into 6 or 7.

Anonymous said...

OK...I will be waiting for those parts and will add them when you have them done. Thanks John!


Dawn