Democratic Society and Temptations Against Faith

With faith comes a degree of moral certainty. This is as it should be. However, a cause for deception arises when we confuse our moral certainties with political order. The temptation is to use the gospel as a vehicle for making laws to suit ourselves. We need to be clear; moral certainty must contain the good news of salvation for all of humanity. Political order has its own set of morals because it is for the governance of a broad mix of convictions and absences of convictions. The contrast between the two moral standards is found when we compare baptism with lethal injection. The one burial is submitted to through repentance and hope. The other burial is enforced through a society’s need for order. To avoid confusion, we might ask ourselves; Which burial should the church be focused upon? The burial of a sinner through baptism, or the burial of a convict after execution? Hopefully, when we eat the bread and drink the fruit of the vine, our remembrance of Jesus holds thanksgiving for salvation. One might ask; “Aren’t the events of this world driven by such things as spiritual convictions?” No doubt. But do we want the church to rule society? Is that what faith is all about? When it comes to faith in Jesus Christ there is a stark contrast between it and, for example, Islam. Islam makes no bones about it, its religious directives should control society. This is why the Imams are in the wings of Iran, Syria, and other countries. Adulterers are executed in such countries, and dissent is met with brutality. It is the same mentality which burned witches in Salem, and promulgated the Inquisition against any position of faith contrary to the orthodoxy. That attitude was found in James and John when they expressed indignation against the Samaritans who would not receive Jesus;  “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”  That attitude might have fared well in a society where directives were given by God for conquering people and controlling territory. But Jesus rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (cf. Lk.9:52-56) Therefore our faith in Christ must point our activities to a higher level than that of politics.

The watchword of Christ’s kingdom in the midst of world events is simple; “Repent.” As Paul spoke to the Athenians on Mars Hill: “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts17:30-31) Repentance requires the free choice of every individual. This means the individual has been given by God the opportunity to freely assess and to freely decide what to do with their lives as they confront the gospel.

When religious groups presume to use legislation to promote their agenda, the call for repentance is compromised. In order for the church to truly sustain the call to repent, there cannot be any coercive force other than what comes from the hearer’s conviction. Is there any example of Jesus going beyond the message preached? One might say; “He drove out the money changers from the Temple grounds.” Well yes, that was coercion. However it was done in the house of God; “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” He went no further than that. Do we find this same activity directed toward the tax collectors, prostitutes, or the idolatrous Romans? The scribes and Pharisees received verbal “woes” from Jesus, but He did not stir up the multitude against them. Did Paul go to the city of Corinth with a torch to burn out the many dens of iniquity which existed there? When Paul was in custody at Caesarea, he spoke to Felix the Roman governor. “He reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come. .”  (Acts 24:25) There is no Biblical record of Paul or any other disciple excoriating the sins of the Roman Empire and its citizens; perhaps because all have sinned.

One might say; “The church didn’t have the opportunities which we now have in our Democratic society.” Paul was a Roman citizen. As such, he had opportunities to influence legislation. Could not he have solicited funds sufficiently to call for a hearing in the Senate? In that process could he not have targeted some rank social injustice? Between Paul and Apollos, their inspired intellect and oratory would have made Cicero to appear an amateur. Rather Paul was true to this statement; “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (I Tim.1:15)

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  1. October 5, 2010

    Politics are a conundrum. As individuals I believe it is proper and expected for us to elect representatives who will fight the secular spread of lies and deceptions. As a local congregation I believe we should not take a public position unless forced to. The church was designed to be a vehicle for salvation and nothing else.
    Louis, I am glad you are willing to take on this subject. I agree with your conclusions. To take on the Roman Emperors would have been folly. The church can survive without political involvement as a organization and should remain publicly non-committal if possible. Inside the church, as Christ did, we need to keep it clean and as pure as possible.

  2. October 5, 2010

    Rick, thanks for your comment. Personally, I am glad for the ability to vote. However, the Lord’s plan for who holds office might be different than mine. He doesn’t always give power to good men. Also, who I deem to be good, might be a fraud. . .the Lord knows the hearts of men.

  3. October 5, 2010

    Thanks for your article Louis. It is timely and well stated. Another danger for Christians is applying to America OT passages addressed to Israel. We must remember that Israel had a covenant with God. The only contemporary nation with a similar relationship is the church. It is inappropriate for us to apply promises, warnings, blessings, or cursings directed toward Israel to America (e.g. Leviticus 26). While America’s existence is (at minimum) allowed by God or (at best) providential, Christians must be wary of the mediated deceit circulated by some political corners. America is a nation of the world and possesses no covenant relationship with the Lord. True, she acknowledged her Creator for a couple of centuries and that affirmation directed her morality. But to call America a “Christian nation” and insinuate a covenant relationship through misapplication of scripture insults God’s design and intent for the church.

  4. October 5, 2010

    Wade, I appreciate the additional facet you brought to our consideration. The people of God are indeed under a new covenant. And to apply the old covenant’s prerogatives and promises with regard to the land does not have the authority of God behind it.

  5. Rick Moody
    October 5, 2010

    Our ability to vote is unique in world history. It places us in an enviable position compared to the Monarchists and Emperors that the historical world has had to deal with. If the power rests in the people, it is my opinion that as citizens we are obligated to use what influence we have to secure a safe environment for the church. We are so richly blessed that we can serve our Lord without fear of government intervention. As long as we have this power we should use it to protect our freedom to worship as God would want us to. This requires study and commitment to this cause. We also have the power to remove elected representatives that we see as threatening to a proper society and to our freedom to worship. I think we should not hesitate to do so.
    The constitution is a piece of paper that can be torn up or amended at the whim of those who might abuse the power to do so. It was not written by God and there are no guarantees or promises of God within it. Remember that our right to worship is an amendment to the original document. Amendments can be repealed if the political environment changes. Thanks again to Louis and Wade for thoughtful insights to a complicated but important issue.

  6. October 5, 2010

    Rick, this unique position is a good place to be in, inasmuch as we are able to meet and worship freely, and cast our vote as we see fit. But wouldn’t you agree that the church is in no position to endorse a candidate? Who would the Lord’s candidate be? Who has the power to make such a declaration on behalf of the church? As far as voting goes, we are left to decide as best as we can and leave the outcome in the Lord’s hands. I felt sick to my stomach when Mitt Romney alluded that his moral standing was superior to Bill Clinton’s. (This was when he was seeking to win the Republican primary.) What an un-christian thing to do. Yet, the insinuation was that Mr. Romney’s morals were from following the Lord. @Rick Moody

  7. Rick Moody
    October 6, 2010

    I agree that the church should not endorse any candidate. I was trying to make a distinction between the church as a group and my individual responsibility to defend the church as a member. The church as a congregation should not get involved in politics. I would hope that as individual members we would consider the church in everything we do, including politics. I don’t think we disagree. This is a complicated subject yet it is important that we take the time to do our best and attempt to elect those who will do no harm, if that is even possible, in light of todays general move toward secularism.

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