Archive for the ‘ Biblical Principles ’ Category

Political or Spiritual?

Christians & PoliticsMy last post was my best attempt to explain why Christians have a responsibility to engage in politics and government, and that by doing so we are not diluting the Gospel. I received an e-mail response from a friend who has worked diligently in the public arena for many years now. He pointed out one very significant fact I failed to emphasize, one that I wish I had included. So, with his permission, here is his response. Read for edification:
As someone who is regularly criticized by my fellow followers of Jesus Christ for daring to apply my faith in the political arena, I thank you for your blog post.  It’s not that I need affirmation, but it is always good to read something insightful about what God has called me to do.
 
I would add one comment to your post.  When I am chastised for being involved with “political issues” that “drive people away from Jesus,” I always ask to which issues they refer.  Of course, the common responses are abortion or marriage or both.  To which I respond: No, I asked which political issues. Those aren’t political issues, they are issues of fundamental Biblical principle concerning who God is, who we are, His design for us and for social order.  Yes, they happen to be debated within the political realm, but that doesn’t make them political issues.  I believe Christians fall for that trap all the time.  We allow that which is spiritual in nature to be labeled as secular (or political) only to find ourselves then on the defensive when in fact what we are discussing is spiritual. 
Of course, the dichotomy is in and of itself, for the believer, a false one anyway, since there is nothing “secular” to God.  But good luck explaining that concept to most believers! 
 
Anyway, I say all that to say simply that I don’t deal with political issues.  I deal with spiritual issues that are being debated in the political sphere.  But, of course, if they are “political,” then they are open for debate and compromise.
He is absolutely correct, and I appreciate his amendment to what I wrote. The murder of innocent children is first and foremost a spiritual issue because it is blatant immorality. Marriage, as I noted, is a God-ordained institution, so any tampering with it is tampering with God’s order of things. Both are political only when politicians try to alter eternal right and wrong. Christians, therefore, cannot be silent when moral atrocities become ever more prevalent and accepted by society at large.
 
God simply calls us to be faithful and to take His truth into every corner of the world, even corners we would like to avoid.
 

Christians & Politics: My Statement of Faith

Biblical WorldviewI sincerely hope the thoughts I share on this blog can be seen as coming from a heart of deep concern for the truths of the Christian faith, the edifying of believers, and the instruction of those who may be outside that faith. I skewer whatever deserves to be skewered, seeking to do so in the same manner as Jesus cleansing the temple of those who made a mockery of real worship.

Therefore, I try to be charitable toward those who may disagree with me, and I don’t want to be a source of disunity in the Body of Christ. Yet I must speak up with respect to those things that make us ineffective and/or disconnected to the reality of the political and governmental realm. I’m going to disagree today with some brothers and sisters who don’t like Christians getting involved with politics, but I won’t name any names. This is not intended as any kind of a personal attack on those who are in disagreement.

The spark for today’s commentary is the increasing number of articles, blog posts, and passing comments on social media warning Christians not to be tied to a conservative political agenda. Those of us who write or speak out on political issues are being taken to a verbal woodshed by some, and being accused of putting politics ahead of the Gospel.

God & GovernmentI hope regular readers of this blog will recognize my constant reminders that the basic problem in the world is man’s broken relationship with God, a divide that can be healed only through the cross of Christ. There is nothing more important than leading people to that truth. Neither have I placed any false hope in government; it never will be our savior. Politics is definitely a dirty business, but then so is the running of a corporation at times, being involved in a labor union, or any other human endeavor.

Politics, however, and the potential power of government to dictate our lives, affects us all. It can be a hindrance to the Gospel and to individuals who want to live in accordance with the Lord’s commands. It can penalize believers who want to operate their businesses on Biblical principles. It can restrict the interchange of ideas and beliefs. A climate of intolerance—in the name of tolerance—can seek to make everyone conform to what a government concludes is “right” thinking.

This is why I’ve always contended that Christians need to be involved in political affairs, not to set up a theocracy, but to safeguard the religious liberty bequeathed to us by the Founding Generation.

Whenever I speak to any political group, I make it clear that my political beliefs are grounded on my understanding of the Christian worldview as explained in the Bible. I am a Christian first and foremost; if my views line up with a certain political stance, it’s not because I’m a slave to a political party or movement; instead, I align with a party or movement to the extent that it reflects my Biblical beliefs and values.

One well-known pastor recently said he was concerned that evangelicals are turning people off to the Gospel because of our perceived political stance. What stance does he mean? If he means we are against abortion, so be it. If he means we continue to believe homosexuality is a sin and that there is no valid “gay” marriage, I can live with that. With the former, I am arguing against the mass murder of innocent children. With the latter, I am standing up for a God-ordained concept of sexuality and family. What are we supposed to do—apologize for those views? Run away from them? Hide them so as to not offend people?

PersecutionLet’s be clear. Jesus offended a lot of people. He told us that the Gospel message would lead to persecution and would divide families. His message led to His death because He challenged the religious/political establishment of His day. The apostle Paul said that all who desire to live godly lives would most certainly be persecuted.

Who are we? What do we have to offer as a church? Is our goal to make people feel comfortable in their sins?

Here’s what concerns me more than any political chicanery or threat to religious liberty: that the church in our day either minimizes or excuses sin; that we redefine sins such as homosexuality as just another alternative lifestyle and God accepts everyone; that we don’t really call sinners to repentance because we don’t want to damage their self-esteem; that we’re so focused on being liked and accepted in the mainstream of society that we will change the Gospel to fit current trends.

To those who are airing warnings against political activity, let me assure you that most of us on this side of the divide understand the potential dangers. Yes, some people seem to equate patriotism with being a Christian. Yes, some may come close to thinking that there can be a political solution to our crises. But I contend they are a minority.

Can you see the other danger? Too much concern about political involvement may be based upon a dichotomous worldview that separates religious faith from the so-called secular arena. It then allows the ungodly to run those “secular” entities and just hopes for the best. Some may call that trusting God, but I submit that it may instead be running away from a godly responsibility.

Salt & LightI realize some who are sounding these warnings are doing so from a good heart and simply want the Gospel to be primary. I argue that making the Gospel primary means the Good News affects all aspects of our lives and that we take that message into every realm of our society. We are not lights to be put under a bushel; we are not to be tasteless salt. We are to help preserve that which is good in society and shine a light to show people the way out of that which is evil.

Of course that requires a clear understanding of good and evil. We must never change God’s standards. We must stand for His truth even in a culture that is spiraling out of control away from His truth. We need to encourage one another to stand firm and to be the best representatives of His love that we can be. That begins with a strong denunciation of sin, the absolute requirement of repentance, and the offer of unbounded forgiveness to all who will repent of their sin. That is the Good News; that is the Gospel.

Lewis: Paraphrasing Jesus

C. S. Lewis 1Here is C. S. Lewis in an essay called “What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” paraphrasing some of the words of Jesus in a way that should make us think more deeply about them:

“What are we to make of Christ?” There is no question of what we can make of Him, it is entirely a question of what He intends to make of us. You must accept or reject the story.

The things He says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, “This is the truth about the Universe. This is the way you ought to go,” but He says, “I am the Truth, and the Way, and the Life.” He says, “No man can reach absolute reality, except through Me. Try to retain your own life and you will be inevitably ruined. Give yourself away and you will be saved.”

He says, “If you are ashamed of Me, if, when you hear this call, you turn the other way, I also will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything whatever is keeping  you from God and from Me, whatever it is,  throw it away. If it is your eye, pull it out. If it is your hand, cut it off.

“If you put yourself first you will be last.  Come to Me everyone who is carrying a heavy load, I will set that right.  Your sins, all of them, are wiped out, I can do that. I am Re-birth, I am Life. Eat Me, drink Me, I am your Food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole Universe.”

That is the issue.

Lewis: Jesus Not Just a Great Moral Teacher

Mere ChristianityPerhaps the most often quoted passage from C. S. Lewis comes from Mere Christianity. It has to do with the nature of Christ. It requires no further commentary, so I print it in full here for your consideration:

Jesus . . . told people that their sins were forgiven. . . . This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin.

. . . I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say.

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Lewis: Great Moral Teacher?

C. S. Lewis 3I love how C. S. Lewis compares Jesus to other religious leaders in history. In an essay called “What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” Lewis lays out the claim Jesus made that He was indeed God, as opposed to simply a great moral teacher:

On the one side clear, definite moral teaching. On the other, claims which, if not true, are those of a megalomaniac, compared with whom Hitler was the most sane and humble of men.

There is no half-way house and there is no parallel in other religions. If you had gone to Buddha and asked him “Are you the son of Bramah?” he would have said, “My son, you are still in the vale of illusion.” If you had gone to Socrates and asked, “Are you Zeus?” he would have laughed at you. If you had gone to Mohammed and asked, “Are you Allah?” he would first have rent his clothes and then cut your head off. If you had asked Confucius, “Are you Heaven?” I think he would have probably replied, “Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste.”

The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion which undermines the whole mind of man. . . .

We may note in passing that He was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met Him. He produced mainly three effects—Hatred—Terror—Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.

 

On Race & Intolerance

As a Christian, I take seriously the Biblical concept that all men are descended from an original couple, Adam and Eve. Consequently, we are all part of the same family genetically. Sin is what divides people. We tend to cluster around those who are more like us and develop suspicions toward those who are different in physical appearance. Talk of racism always bothers me because I don’t really believe in racial classifications. From the Biblical point of view, there is only one race, and it’s called “human.” The external differences we see are simply testimony to God’s creativity and love of diversity—a word that has been maligned lately due to its misapplication.

What people call racism is actually just a dislike for those who are not like “us.” It cuts across the divide and infects all people, no matter what color they are or ethnicity to which they belong. It’s not the exclusive province of Americans descended from Europeans. The attempt to remedy past ill treatment of blacks in America via affirmative action policies has only created greater injustice and division. Good intentions are not the same as good policy.

That’s why I applaud a recent Supreme Court decision that tore down the affirmative action barrier to equal treatment of all people, regardless of color, gender, or ethnic background. All that decision did was help fulfill the vision of a society in which people are judged by individual merit, not outward characteristics. Naturally, though, there are those who will cling to the old vision:

That's Racist

It’s particularly pernicious when some of those sit on that Supreme Court. Nevertheless, we should rejoice that at least one small step has been taken legally to reverse the trend.

Unfortunately, we still have an administration that uses past inequalities to hammer the current generation. Some find it exceedingly difficult to see anything outside of the “racial” box. Whenever President Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder are criticized, they immediately find refuge behind the racial wall:

Race Cards

Frankly, any other attorney general exhibiting the degree of racial bias Holder has shown would have been out the door well before now.

What’s particularly distasteful to me is that they always speak the language of tolerance, while themselves showcasing some of the most intolerant attitudes imaginable. Whenever Biblical morality is held up as a standard, its advocates are attacked as intolerant. It’s the Christians who are now being portrayed as the intolerant ones, and we are told that our views will not be tolerated:

Tolerant Community

As I’ve noted before, the real battle for the future is not political; the real battle is theological and cultural. Winning the hearts and minds is where we need to focus our attention.

Lewis: Reflection on the Incarnation

In one of his letters, C. S. Lewis reflects on when God became man in the person of Jesus. Why did He not come as a type of superhero, impervious to physical harm and devoid of emotion? It’s because He sought to be like us and to reveal the heart of the Father:

JesusGod could, had He pleased, have been incarnate in a man of iron nerves, the Stoic sort who lets no sigh escape him. Of His great humility He chose to be incarnate in a man of delicate sensibilities who wept at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane.

Otherwise we should have missed the great lesson that it is by his will alone that a man is good or bad, and that feelings are not, in themselves, of any importance. We should also have missed the all-important help of knowing that He has faced all that the weakest of us face, has shared not only the strength of our nature but every weakness of it except sin.

As the apostle Paul put it, Jesus emptied Himself of all the privileges of Godhood and chose to live as a man. The writer of the Hebrews tells us that He suffered everything we suffer, even all the temptations that the world has to offer, yet did so without succumbing to sin. That’s why He became the perfect sacrifice, to set us free from sin and death. That truth should serve to humble us before Him and spur us to love Him without condition or measure.