Is Your Faith a Political Threat?

So it turns out that Christian convictions actually do matter in and affect the public square. The world rightly sees the church as dangerous. The Christian faith is a political threat. Not quite in the sense that an invading army is a threat to another country… but in the sense of a herald announcing the arrival of the king coming in judgment… in the sense of a community of citizens sojourning in a foreign land who are fiercely loyal to their king… in the sense of an embassy representing and proclaiming the rights of its coming king over all nations.

There are two groups of people who truly understand that threat of Christianity: those who are persecuted because of their Christian convictions, and those who do the persecuting.

Here is yet one more example of the world’s recognition of the truly dangerous nature of Christianity. Dutch authorities are investigating a number of pastors who signed the Nashville Statement on sexuality. They are threatening criminal charges against these pastors for signing an “anti-gay” Christian confession. (See the article here.)

Unfortunately, Denny Burk’s response and commentary on the subject appears a little soft. He seems to imply that the Dutch authorities shouldn’t feel so threatened by the Nashville Statement. He seems surprised that Dutch authorities care so much about “what is essentially a confessional statement.”

The problem, of course, is in the failure to recognize the public and political significance of Christian confessions. When those Dutch pastors signed their names to the Nashville Statement, they were declaring that their highest allegiance is to Christ, not to the Netherlands. Of course, the fact that they are baptized Christians ought to be enough to make that clear, but that’s not often the case anymore. The signing of a public statement articulating biblical morality (particularly one that has entered into the political eye to the degree that sexuality has) is simply another clear message to the nations that we serve a higher sovereign—we serve a king who demands the allegiance of all nations.

And as our allegiance to Christ increasingly comes into conflict with our ability to obey our earthly rulers, we need to be prepared to say with the apostles, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

To read more about the prophetic and political function of the church, I would recommend the book that shaped much of my thinking in this area: Political Church: The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ’s Rule. In that work, Leeman writes this:

Churches do not need to take up arms against the state in order to pose a threat to the state; they only need to oppose the gods upon which a nation’s political and economic institutions depend.

And, while the Nashville Statement is commendable, I would rather recommend the Fortified Nashville Statement as an even more faithful and sound articulation of the biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality.

“Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” — 1 Peter 4:19

Compassion and Common Sense

In his characteristically winsome-though-tart manner, Doug Wilson blogged yesterday about a common issue at the intersection of politics, economics, and Christianity…

One of the central problems that people who are both thoughtless and compassionate have is their simplistic tendency to argue that what is an obvious duty for an individual is therefore an equally obvious duty for a nation.

Read the rest of the post here.

Then enjoy this talk from pastor Wilson on “Winsome Tartness.”

“Why I’m Not Voting This Election”

George Yancey recently posted an article on Patheos explaining why he won’t be voting in the midterm elections. He ends his post with “No waiting in long lines for me to vote this year. I have better things to do with my time. I am staying home.”

Unfortunately, no, staying home to boycott the American system we currently have in place is not a better way to spend your time. Even voting third party or write-in is a better option than simply staying home.

As I’ve argued before, boycotting the voting process is, for various reasons (both practical and philosophical), simply not an option in my mind. Although it’s about the 2016 presidential election, I would urge you to read this article, as I think there are a lot of basic principles there that apply to the midterm elections as well. In that article, I explain the Christian’s basic responsibility to live as good citizens in the country in which we reside and to seek the welfare of that country, how that relates to our duty to be involved in the voting process, what “voting your conscience” does and does not mean, and why being consistent carries implications for even where we shop! I encourage you to take the time to read the whole post with an open mind. But, for the bottom liners, here’s my conclusion:

We must, both as faithful Christians and good citizens, vote for the candidate whose policies will most effectively preserve the welfare of the nation, protect innocent life, punish evil, and provide for a tranquil and quiet life for us and our neighbor. — “On Citizenship, Voting, and Starbucks”


Postscript: It’s tempting—especially for Christians—to have the mindset that says “I don’t really care who wins this election; it ultimately doesn’t matter.” I think this is misguided, as it fails to sufficiently take into account our duty to love our neighbor, and falls prey to the error of being “so heavenly-minded that we’re of no earthly good.” But that’s a point for another post.

PPS: In my opinion, state and local elections are actually, in many ways, more significant than national elections, and it’s becoming quite perturbing to hear so many folks preoccupied with the national stage who have no idea who their own governor, mayor, or sheriff is. I imagine as the social justice mayhem swells, we will see a shift in that regard.

 

 

 


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Two More on Social Justice

Two more issues in the whole matter (I mentioned before another crucial distinction) are the definition of justice and the direction of obligation. The definition of justice is not what progressives would have us make it, and this is crucial in understanding the whole conversation. Justice is rendering to each person that which he is due. It’s unjust to murder you because you have a God-given right to life, for lack of a better term (“rights” has been grossly misunderstood and misused of late). You can’t appropriate my iPhone without my permission, because it’s mine, and I have a right to my own property. But do I have a judicial obligation to send $20 to a village in Africa to help provide them with clean water? Well, no; but it would be kind. That’s not justice, that’s charity. The social justice movement has so conflated the two that when they speak of “justice,” they almost unswervingly are referring to a matter of charity, or of skewed equity, but rarely matters of actual justice and injustice.

By “direction of obligation,” I simply mean that to argue that caring for the poor is not a matter of justice in the strictest sense, is not to say that we have no obligation in that area, only that our obligation is not to man, but to God as someone who calls on us to have compassion.

This article explains well the necessary distinction between justice and charity, or, to use another biblical word, between justice and grace. This, in fact, has serious implications for our understanding of the gospel itself, and that’s exactly why this distinction is so imperative.

Giving your money to the poor is not justice; it’s mercy. Taking other people’s money by force (whether through the government or any other means) and giving it to the poor is neither justice nor mercy; it’s injustice.

The folks at Cripplegate have made this crucial distinction before, and they say it again in this article critiquing those who claim that the SJ&G Statement is opposing the poor, with an excellent point about the validity of a “preach the gospel” approach to social change.

Tim Keller is one of the primary leaders of Christian social justice compromise, even though he seems to be oblivious to the fact that he’s one of the men the SJ&G Statement is specifically addressing. He recently responded to a question about his opinion on the statement. He danced around for a few minutes spewing nonsense, and this critique of his comments is well worth reading through.

Here are a few other articles of note:

Races Don’t Reconcile, Hearts Do

Does the Bible Require Wealth Redistribution and Equalization?

The Theological Problem with Tim Keller’s So-Called Social Justice


 

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More Than You Wanted on Social Justice

The recent Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel has sparked an abundance of articles both in praise and critique of the statement at various levels, and from various angles. Allow me to point you toward some of the notables for those who are following this conversation or would like to understand the issue in more depth.

First, Tom Ascol wrote (on the day the statement was released) some short reflections on his involvement with the conception of the document.

I must also begin by recommending the articles being put out by the SJ&G website itself. Primarily from the original team involved with the statement, there are some excellent articles on the site addressing different aspects of the social justice controversy in more detail. So far, they have published some good articles on things like the nature of division and unity in the church, the problem with being “woke,” and the sufficiency of Scripture. You can find all the articles here.

And don’t forget about John MacArthur’s recent series on the fallacies of social justice.

Toby Sumpter has given a simple, but thoughtful and very helpful defense of the statement in this post—correcting the detractors, but being careful not to make the statement more than it was meant to be.

There has, of course, been a tsunami of articles attacking the statement. I’m going to, for the purposes of this post, ignore the responses that have come from those who are precisely the ones the statement is addressing. I’ll also leave out those responses that are simply unreasonable. However, there have been a few articles that have reasonable and helpful critiques that are worth being aware of.

Here is the first article I saw, in which Steve Hays explains why he decided not to sign the statement.

T. Neil Daugherty gives some thoughts from a Christian Libertarian perspective here.

Michael Bird also offers some critiques of the statement here. As I’ve said before, Bird is one of my favorite theologians (of those with whom I often disagree). His critiques are worth reading, but again, he falls into some of the same traps as other “balanced” voices. For example, Bird notes that salvation includes good news for the marginalized and oppressed. Of course, the problem in this whole conversation is that most of the players seem to be running on established assumptions concerning the definition of “marginalized,” the identity of the “oppressed” groups, and the kind and severity of the oppression. That’s precisely what Aniol and others would like to challenge.

Bird also mishandles Luke 4:16-21, but it’s a common interpretation he goes with. There, and several other times in the article, Bird betrays a faulty hermeneutic that leans postmillennial. He also suggests that any attempt to pursue true justice necessarily entails the approach and philosophy of the social justice movement.

To quote James: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27 NIV). To do that kind of stuff requires a social justice approach!

Not quite. Again, Bird misunderstands the SJ&G Statement’s very point of contention—that a genuine pursuit of justice does not mandate the methodology and “approach” of the social justice craze, and that, in fact, we may radically differ on our definitions of what justice will even look like for various individuals and groups.

That being said, Bird then has some quite helpful criticisms of Union Seminary’s radical progressivist response to the SJ&G Statement. Even when I disagree with his stance, I’ve always appreciated Bird’s ability to honestly push against both sides and look for the balance.

In this post, the author addresses two of the more prominent negative responses to the Statement, and explains why she decided to sign it.

Along that vein, Doug Wilson has also responded to McDurmon’s critique with some helpful thoughts of his own here, here, and (a valuable and insightful addition to the discussion) here.

Josh Buice explains his involvement with the statement here, and writes on feminism, liberation theology, and the sufficiency of Scripture, here.

And I’ll end, for now, by directing you back to an article on the SJ&G website again.

Some find The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel unhelpful and behind the times. “It is not sensitive to the present moment” they say. “It is not strategic” is the word on the street. But our Lord did not tell us to go into all the world and “be strategic.” He told us to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all his commands. A rebellious world has always found that commission distasteful.

Can Christians be unnecessarily combative? Of course. But the fact that some have leveled that claim against the careful and measured statement on social justice and the gospel warrants what theologians in days gone by have called the hearty horse laugh. — Jared Longshore

I’m sure I’ll come back around to the topic a few more times. But what about you? Have you found any of the discussion surrounding social justice and the SJ&G Statement helpful? Frustrating? Enlightening? What are some other articles, authors, and pastors that you’ve found to offer valuable wisdom?

 


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