04 February 2012

Responding to a member of the McIntire Faction

I came across this post the other day and I felt it provided a good opportunity for some interaction. The author means well, I don’t think that can be disputed. His guiding principles on the surface seem sound and to his mind quite obvious.

However, the author holds certain theological assumptions which drive his whole understanding of not only how to look at these issues, but what questions to ask.
Consequently, we end up with some serious problems in how these issues are approached, the dilemmas created and the solutions suggested or provided. I talk about this quite often and this article provides yet another good demonstration of what this looks like.

For longtime readers this will be nothing new, but as there’s a constant stream of people coming and going, I want to make sure I revisit these points. Sometimes a change in context or just putting it all in a different way will help someone to see things in a new light. What wasn’t clear before might suddenly jump off the page.

The McIntire Faction refers to the fact that the author is a pastor in the Bible Presbyterian Church started by Carl McIntire among others. He played a large role in shaping the theology and ideology of modern American political Evangelicalism.




January 20, 2012 by Tim Prussic

Now that the field has narrowed for the GOP, my interest has increased (a little bit). I watched some of the latest GOP debate, the so-called “Southern Republican Presidential Debate.” This post will contain some reactions to a single aspect of that debate.

Afore my color commentary, allow me to set down a few guiding principles. The first two are general, and the third applies to my observation of the debate. 1) Jesus Christ IS King of the United States of America, for he is the Ruler of the Kings of Earth (Rev. 1:5). This means that the only cosmic government is an absolute monarchy. Christians should simply admit this and quit trying to be sons of the Enlightenment, acting as if Jesus were merely a private King or the King only of his church. He’s certainly both of those things, but he’s more than that, too. He is the head of *all things* and is given to the church, which is the fullness of him who fills all in all (Eph 1:23). Okay… so far so good? No? Sorry. Moving on, then:

Proto:

Christ is of course the Ruler of the Kings of the Earth, and in that sense yes, it is the duty of every person on this planet to bow the knee, repent and believe. The means which we seek to bring this about is the gospel. This gospel includes an eschatological promise and warning. Jesus is coming; this will be life and the completion of salvation for those that belong to Him, and death and Judgment for those who do not.

Christ is also the Head and King of the Church. He is King of a Holy Kingdom that one must be Born Again to participate in. Only those who are renewed by the Holy Spirit can see this Kingdom which comes without observation, this Kingdom that is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, this Kingdom that is not of this world and not fought for with carnal weapons.

The author’s way of framing this is misguided and quite harmful. One, it does not make the distinction between Christ’s universal Reign...his sovereign Providential rule over the universe as both Creator and Preserver, and Christ’s particular Holy Realm wherein he reigns as the Saviour we are in Union with, the Resurrected King who returned from the dead for our Justification, the sender of the Holy Spirit to comfort and aid His people, and the object of our Blessed Hope.

Christ is none of these things for the nations of the world which are mere human constructs all aspiring to be Beasts and make a name for themselves. He is not Life to the unrepentant but the coming Judge wielding a sword. He is not a Blessed Hope to those who have rejected him, but a promise of Holy Terror which will ask them to account for their lives.

This is not Enlightenment thinking, this is Scriptural. The fact that Enlightenment thinkers developed metaphysical and political theories which rejected Sacralistic thought can be looked at as both irrelevant to our discussion and practically speaking as fallen man at his best...creating a political cultural sphere which will function (for a time) as a venue in which both Christian and non-Christian can live in relative social peace...an excellent setting for the Church to both promote the gospel and grow internally.

The United States in no way can be identified as the Kingdom of Christ.

Prussic:

2) The law of God is not just for private use, family use, or church use, but is for the whole world, for all men and governments. There are plenty of qualifications to be made, but I want to stress that God’s law REALLY DOES apply to the President of the United States of America. For example, when God says, “You shall not murder,” that applies to individuals, families, the church, and the state. That’s right, the civil magistrate may not take human life, except as God has commanded him to do so. Another example: when God says, ” You shall not steal,” this applies to the government. This shouldn’t be contorted to mean that all taxation is illegitimate theft, but it should at very least, factor into our thinking about taxes and wealth redistribution.

Proto:

God’s law applies to the President in this way...Behold the holiness of God. Behold the state of man, the curse of sin, and the way of reconciliation provided through the cross of Christ. Repent or perish.

The Old Testament or Old Covenant is just that...covenantal, bound to the people in covenant with the covenant-giver (God) who provided it. Its presence on the earth is both salt and light, a testimony to truth and hope and a warning.

The laws concerning holiness, judgment, and reconciliation all pointed to Jesus Christ. They were in no way meant for the nations around Israel and to say they apply to the United States or any other nation today displays a gross misunderstanding of Holy Scripture and Redemptive History. If all the nations were to embrace the Torah, the Israel would cease to be. Individuals from the nations were invited to become Covenant people…Jews.

Today we go unto all nations and make disciples, bringing people into the Kingdom, but the nations themselves are not transformed into Holy Realms or expressions of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is God’s people at work in all lands and among all peoples and tongues.

The Old Testament nations were judged by an unexpressed standard...a general morality which historically has been called Natural Law. They were expected to grasp basic moral concepts regarding murder, theft, justice and so forth. Prophetically we can speak to the nations...meaning the people of the world. What are they to do? Repent and join with the covenant people, the Commonwealth of Israel Paul describes in Ephesians 2, the Jews and Gentiles participating in the Covenants (plural) of Promise...which of course is Jesus Christ the affirmation and confirmation, the yes and amen of all the promises…2 Corinthians 1.20

To treat the Law this way is to de-canonize it and to make it non-Testamental, non-Covenantal.

If Law is meant in a Lutheran sense, in that it is merely the ‘commands’ of God which may or may not include the Old Testament laws...then again, I would say that Romans 8 teaches us the unregenerate man cannot be subjected to the Law of God...he rails against it. He needs to be renewed by the Spirit. The Law has one command to the unbeliever...Repent and Believe.

The author is assuming that somehow the United States is supposed to operate in a covenantal fashion. The United States is just another nation that will come and go. As far as nations go it’s a pretty wicked one and that has been in no small part due to its Sacralistic impulses, the attempt to force Christianity on unbelievers and the hybrid which results from it. The ideas the author suggests will not help in this regard.

I’m pleased that he has not entirely fallen for the very misguided and erroneous concept advocated by many Christians that taxation is theft. This is used as a theological-political point and part of an attempt to delegitimize the present powers that be. I’m sorry, but as much as we all may be irritated by taxes, as much as they are misused by the American war machine and flushed down the bureaucratic toilet...we have no theological basis to call it theft. That’s calling taxation a sin and thus encourages the Church to protest it. Nowhere are we encouraged to protest the taxes of Rome or Babylon. In fact we’re told to pay them and we’re given reasons why. The Church’s political posturing is in direct opposition to the exhortations of the epistles. Sacralists are making it impossible for us to live the quiet lives we are supposed to seek. This quiet is social, in terms of our hope for society. Our Christian lives are filled with both joy and sorrow, and all who are in Christ will not gain power, but suffer persecution. That’s our calling and in fact our means of victory. This is both basic to the Christian life but also quite profound and rarely grasped today.

We will have plenty of difficulties no matter what society we live in. We are exhorted to pray for a quiet and peaceful one, but there’s no promise that our prayers will be answered. The American Church is doing the exact opposite, buying into the power struggle and engaging the Church in a cultural war in which the gospel has been all but lost. And though the words, the grammatical formula is still present, it has no unction, no power behind it. The Church has sacrificed its witness and brings no love or holiness, no hope or warning…but instead wields a sword of hypocrisy, threat, violence, lies and deceit.

If the pagans rise up and overthrow the other pagans who are imposing the tax, hey that’s fine. If they don’t, that’s also fine. Either way we’re called to live as pilgrims in Babylon and pay our taxes. When this Babylon dies, it will be replaced by another hydra-headed Babylon…but for us, nothing changes.

This is so foreign to the American Church. There have been people all throughout Church History that have taught this and warned the Church against the power-temptation. Rarely have they been heard and all too often the ‘Church’ has turned on these people and persecuted them.

Of course it’s not the Church persecuting them, but agents of another religion, one that looks like Christianity but is in reality a syncretization, a hybrid, a mixing of Christianity with paganism. We used to call it Christendom, though today many prefer the Judeo-Christian West. Don’t confuse this Sacral and Imperial construct with Biblical Christianity.

Prussic:

Finally, 3) past sins do not necessarily disqualify a candidate for office. We all stumble in many ways (James 3:2). By God’s grace in Christ, we repent, trusting in the Savior alone, and we’re forgiven. What’s more, we move on, having learned from our sin.

Proto:



This is all question begging of course. He’s assuming his premise which in no way is proven. Of course past sins can be forgiven, in fact on a personal level they have to be. If an employee steals from me, I have to forgive him, but that does not mean I have to re-instate him in his former position with the same responsibilities and the implied trust those responsibilities rest on.



In terms of a national leader, I need to consider his understanding of the law of the land and his vision for society and nation. The nation is not holy...that removes a huge burden of expectation, but also limits my expectations and certainly my allegiance. As a Christian my only real allegiance is to the Kingdom of Christ.



These other questions are secondary at best. They’re quite interesting and certainly affect my daily life, but they must be kept in perspective. I can vote, I can write letters to the newspaper, I can participate at a council meeting. I do so as a Christian and that shapes how I treat others and to what extent I can or cannot participate in what others are doing. But I’m doing it as a citizen of Babylon who is a Christian, not as a Christian who’s trying to transform Babylon into Zion, the common nation into the Holy Realm of God.


We’re never told to this. It cannot happen, and we’re given no expectation in the New Testament that it ever will happen. Our road is narrow, we are a Remnant people, there are few which be saved and when Christ comes…will he find faith on the earth?



Prussic:

Character... what a funny concept!

Alright, now to the debate: it started with a question to Speaker Gingrich about his deplorable treatment of one of his ex-wives. I’ve heard people talk about Newt’s response and how good it was. Having listened to his response, I can appreciate one aspect of it. There were falsehoods in the story, as it was told, and Newt addressed himself to those to set them straight. So far, so good… we have (at least) to get our facts straight. From there, however, his response was lame. Newt’s response was dismissive and antagonistic. He didn’t speak a word about repentance. There was not even a note of remorse. What’s more, he let on that this sort of stuff was simply a sideshow, distracting from the *real* issues. Romney piped up, basically saying: “Umm… can we move on to something important?” What amazes me is that Newt (a Roman catholic) and Mitt (a Mormon elder) want to act as if their personal lives, past sins, and repentance DON’T MATTER! Do you think that’s true? Personally, I think it’s crazy. Somehow, it appears that both Gingrich and Romney think that personal integrity and character just are not an important aspect to the presidency.

Seriously. Not. Impressive. …or maybe it’s very impressive, but in a negative way. What do you think?

Proto:

I wouldn’t expect to find a whole lot of repentance among political candidates. Any man, who aspires to be the President of the United States has hardly been humbled, is hardly someone that is used to being brought low by godly sorrow. These are some of the most prideful and power hungry creatures on the face of the earth.

Character does matter, and for that reason if I were a Sacralist…I wouldn’t be able to support ANY of these men, for even a moment. The only one in the crowd that has even an ounce of integrity is Ron Paul.

Ultimately when looking at those who would rule Babylon, I am looking for those who are most likely to aid us in leading our quiet and peaceable lives…isn’t that what we’re supposed to pray for? Isn’t God telling us this is the means by which His Kingdom advances…a healthy setting in which the Church is able to do its work in a peaceful context?

Of course the Kingdom advances even when we’re being slaughtered. The Kingdom grows either way, the different contexts simply provide for different types of growth.

The wicked Roman Empire provided such a context…that in no way validated Rome. Providence empowered it, but it also fell at a later date, did it not? It was an imperfect but convenient context.

America has proved similar in many ways, except most of American history has been Constantinian and thus unhealthy. We would actually do better under a Commodus, Caracalla, or Vespasian. Let’s just hope we never end up with a Theodosius like Rick Santorum.

So for me in terms of theology and character I am most hostile to and suspicious of candidates who flout their Christianity and use it as a political and campaigning tool. Alarm bells go off and since they’ve introduced Kingdom and thus theological issues into the equation my only response to them can be…to oppose them. I don’t support any candidate, but there are some I specifically oppose.

First, those espousing any kind of Dominionistic theology or promote ideas tying America in with some kind of holy identity or mission. I cannot vote for them and must oppose them at all times.

Second, I will oppose those who promote Empire and war regardless of religious affiliation.

What does that leave us with? Not much I’m afraid.

What if a Hindu Lesbian was running?…I would probably prefer that to any of our present options. Please understand in no way does that mean I endorse Hindus or Lesbians. But we’re talking Babylon here. If the Hindu Lesbian doesn’t bomb other countries and is willing to embrace social libertarianism which benefits both her and me…then fine. I’ll preach the gospel to the Hindu Lesbian too, but she wouldn’t need to worry that I’m trying to topple her throne.

Hopefully she’ll repent and believe and instead of transforming the American Empire into a Holy Empire…perhaps she’ll dismantle it, break it apart and end the unholy dream. In the end such a candidate may prove ill for imperial dreams, but cannot harm the Church. False Christians promoting false Christian empires are on the other hand quite dangerous to the people of God.

That last couple of paragraphs may seem strange, but please understand I’m trying to make a point. I hope that’s understood.

I appreciate the author’s zeal to apply the Bible to all these questions but I think he’s misread it. Does it really matter? Considering he’s pastoring a church…absolutely. He may be a good man who means well and loves the Lord, but what he stands for on these issues is not in accord with the Kingdom of Christ as revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. I don’t mean to attack him personally. I don’t know him, but since he leads a congregation and has posted this publicly… his writings like mine are fair game.

5 comments:

Jim C. said...

I was thinking about this the other day and as I was reading through the Olivet Discourse it struck me as to what could perhaps be behind the impetus for Dominionism/Theocracy/Reconstructionism etc.

As many of us know, this is one of the "harder" passages in Scripture, especially the part where Christ says "this generation will not pass away before all these things take place". Even though Christ did not specify when exactly he would return, even the apostles believed it would have been within their lifetimes and this is borne out in their writings even though they were wrong. In the opening chapter of Revelation John himself says "the time is near".

Of course Christ didn't come back and it's been 2000+ years. Still a no-show. I have to admit this is one of the more challenging aspects of my faith and no less can probably be said for the Dominionist crowd.

Anyway, my point is that maybe these people believe that for Christ to return they have to assume a more active role in redemptive history. Maybe they figure that we're wrong to just "earnestly wait" for Christ to come back while just working ordinary jobs. Maybe they figure that they have to build a Kingdom first before he returns and that the faster they get it done, the faster he'll come back.

It's just a thought...I'm not sure how substantiated it is.

Your thoughts?

Cal said...

Jim, I'd look into arguments over this passage. I think in a sense Jesus did return, using such apocalyptic imagery, in the closing of one age and opening of another.

The destruction of Jerusalem is apart of this and so is Pentecost. The Old Covenant has been completed and it's end shown in the Spirit dwelling with all disciples of Christ.

There are many resources to understanding this.

Protoprotestant said...

I would say that you're both right.

Jim, you're absolutely correct that for many of these folks they believe that the 2nd coming is at least in part tied in with their activities and the level of their success.

This can actually come from two theologies.

Some (and I would have to qualify some) Dispensationalists believe that if we can bring things to a head and make sure all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed with regard to what they believe is the proper End Times eschatology, then yes...Christ will come.

For the Postmils, the Theonomists, they absolutely believe Jesus won't come back until the Golden Age is established. Some of them, I'm thinking of people like Gary North have actually said stuff like...if the Church would just get off its lazy backside then we could bring in the Kingdom.

That was a paraphrase but pretty close. He's often crude like that.

Kline (one of their opponents) actually accuses them of blaspheming the work of the Holy Spirit because under their understanding the Church has just been a miserable failure for 2000 years.

The Church has in no way been a failure...we just have to reckon success in the Spiritual terms taught to us by Scripture not in world terms which would mean a Civilizational Empire etc....

They are not content to wait and be patient, to be victorious through suffering. They're out to conquer...but I keep arguing that what they end up with isn't the Kingdom of God...but the Pseudo-Kingdom of God aka Babylon the Whore riding the Beast.

I think you're right on in that observation. I think they're misunderstanding the Kingdom, it's nature and how it grows...and also you have to wonder if they're really grasping the Sovereignty of God in terms of Providence, history and what not.

And as far as the 'generation' yeah, I agree with what Cal said. This gets a little mind bending but ALL has been accomplished. This the Already and Not Yet. We're already THERE...everything is DONE.

It's like time hasn't caught up with eternity...we're in the in-between time. Truly the days are short.

Some pick up on this 'completion' aspect but in abandoning the Already-Not Yet (This age and the age to come)...they try and say that Jesus returned in AD70.

That event just like the other destruction of Jerusalem in 586BC was a pre-figuring a type of the final judgment. Isaiah and the other prophets, on the one hand they're talking about the destruction of Jerusalem and on the other hand, they're talking about the end of the world. Some try to parse out which verse refers to which event. I think that's a mistake. It's all woven together. I think Jesus is doing the same thing in Matthew 24.

AD70 was a picture of the end and thus the language of the end can be applied to it. And it also represented an epochal shift. 586BC did as well. The covenant changed somewhat in terms of foundation and basis vs. what was earlier with Moses. AD70 was the end of the Old Covenant, the Jewish Temple system and all that...it was all fulfilled in Christ. It's the closest thing we can look to in order to understand what it will be like when Christ comes again (hopefully soon) and this world is destroyed by fire and we have a new heavens and a new earth...a new Eden as it were, but even better.

I'm not sure if that all made sense. Feel free to pick that apart. I'm happy to look at some of that in more detail. I think it's a huge issue and I know I have found it to be a tremendous blessing in understanding the Bible.

Jim C. said...

Hey Proto and Cal,

You're probably on the right track with the "already-not yet" motif as a key to understanding this passage and yes, it's mind-bending. I can anticipate the response of most skeptics to be something along the lines of "mental gymnastics based on wishful thinking".

So far I've found one of the more compelling arguments deals with the Greek verb tense in verse 34. I forget who it was who said it but he said the verb translated as "take place" is in the inceptive aorist tense, which entails a "snapshot" of an action beginning to happen. Thus, a more accurate translation would be "beginning to take place". The only reason why it's translated as it is in English Bibles is because the aorist tense doesn't exist in the English language.

Thus, one could say that Jesus is saying to his audience that their generation (i.e. they) would not die until it saw the preliminary signs of his coming but not necessarily everything stated in the discourse. This could be further corroborated when in v. 36 and following he explicitly excludes his coming from the list when he says "no man knows the day nor the hour". He'd be contradicting himself if he said that he'd return within their lifetimes and that nobody, not even himself, knew when it would happen.

I think this ties in, albeit imperfectly, with the "already not-yet" idea. The famines, earthquakes and rumors of wars have all happened. Apostasy has been abundant. The love of many has indeed grown cold. Also, the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 and the elimination of all things Jewish from Jerusalem certainly signifies the final nail in the coffin for the Mosaic dispensation of the covenant. However, Christ has yet to return bodily and bring the gospel of the Kingdom into full eschatological consummation.

Anonymous said...

Ah! A picture of both at the same time.
We don't communicate that way in 21st century western culture - so that's what is confusing.
And the translation difficulties - where the languages don't quite match up...

Thank you, Proto and Jim for talking this out.
When we first began talking about these things, Proto, I had so many questions - and I had questions that I wasn't even sure how to ask. Now things are so much clearer! Thanks so much for what you write and opening up the conversation so we can come to a better understanding of scripture!

There is and has always been such misunderstanding - as you know, to the point of people reading into scripture things that just aren't there.

I just want to understand it plainly - without all the stuff that people add with their preconceived beliefs and agendas and misinterpretations!

I look forward to reading more!
Lisa