You Cannot Separate Morality and State

I do not always agree with Doug Wilson, but was impressed by this sermon aimed at the Governor and Legislature of the State of Idaho. My friend Pastor Jeff Durbin commented, “Truly one of the best and most succinct messages I have heard about the unavoidable and necessary element of Christian involvement in political discourse. Unless issues of morality can be separated from ‘State’ we have an obligation to proclaim the truth of God into current political discourse. Abortion is murder and that is why we tell ‘Caesar’: No. Obamacare is theft, injustice, and unwise – that is why we tell the ‘State’: No.”

Politics and the Church of Jesus Christ

In the following video, my good friend Pastor Bruce Brock teaches on a biblical approach to Politics, which is part 2 of his “God and Government” series – Part 1 here:

Politics and the Church of Jesus Christ from Faith Community Church on Vimeo.

Sermon notes:

THE REAL BATTLE. Change the law or win the lost? Can the cause of Christ be expanded by human political or social activism? No. Our battle is a spiritual one and victory can only be achieved by spiritual weapons – II Cor 10:3-6.

The Christian must reject what is ungodly and agree with God’s standards of righteousness. That is done in part by improving society’s moral standards and by approving measures that conform government more toward righteousness. But be careful; while we grieve over the ungodliness of our culture, we must use God’s methods and maintain scriptural priorities.

God has called the church above all else to bring sinful people to Christ through the preaching of the Gospel. Acts 26:18. If we do not evangelize and make disciples, nothing else we do – no matter how beneficial it seems – is of any eternal consequence. Whether a person is sexually promiscuous or virtuous makes no difference if he remains apart from God. We cannot transform society from the outside; only by changing men’s hearts can true change be made and only God can do this.

When the church takes a stance that emphasizes political activism, it diverts energy and resources away from evangelism. In addition, if the church takes an antagonistic, aggressive position against the secular culture, believers may be hostile toward the unsaved residents of that culture. Our neighbors and fellow citizens should not be alienated by our politics when these are the very people we are seeking to win to Christ. Titus 3:1-7

Through faithful preaching and godly living, believers are to be the conscience of the nation they reside in. We do not confront the culture with political/social activism of man’s wisdom, but with the spiritual power of God’s Word. If we use temporal methods to promote or even achieve some sort of “Christian morality” in society it would have no eternal value. Only the gospel rescues sinners from sin, death, and hell.

LESSONS FROM SCRIPTURE. The point is not that Christians should not be involved in politics. They should vote and their votes should be based on Christian ethics. A concern with current trends in government and community is healthy AS LONG as we realize that that interest is not vital to our spiritual growth, righteous testimony, or the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. The believers’ political involvement should never displace the priority of preaching the gospel or being salt and light. Gal 6:10

There is no prohibition on believers being involved in government: Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, the centurion’s servant (Matt 8). The issue is one of PRIORITY. The greatest temporal good we can accomplish through political involvement cannot compare to what our Lord can accomplish through us in the work of His kingdom. Just as God called ancient Israel, He has called us not to political activism but to be a kingdom of priests. 1 Pet 2:1-12.

LESSONS FROM HISTORY. When the church has focused on preaching the gospel and evangelism, her influence has increased. Whenever she has sought power by political, cultural, or military activism, she has damaged her testimony and diminished the power of the gospel. Example: The Crusades. Also during the Reformation:

? The Thirty Years’ War in Europe (1618-1648).
? Cromwell’s revolution in England (1640-1660).

The fact is that it was not warfare or political change but the theology of the Reformation that shone a bright light on the way of salvation and a clear gospel message – this is the blessing of the Reformation!

CONCLUSION. If the church’s focus is political, her power is not increased but decreased. For the church to impact the world for the glory of God and the good of the world, she must not shift her priorities from the worship of God, the winning of souls and making disciples. If the Word of God is preached consistently, citizens of heaven will be energized as they ought to speak and act for the common good. Rom 1:16-17.

We must trust in God and His Providence – not in human governments.

Heidelberg Catechism (1563), “(Q 27) What dost thou mean by the providence of God? (Answer) The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by His hand, He upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by His fatherly hand.”

(Q28) What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by His providence still upholds all things? (Answer) That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and father, that nothing shall separate us from His love: since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.”

THREE EXAMPLES: Jonah, Joseph, and … JACOB: He runs away from his irate brother and unexpectedly encounters the Lord (Gen 28). After 20 years, the Lord again unexpectedly comes to Jacob – Gen 31:13. The ladder he saw in the vision was our Lord Jesus! John 1:51.

All we need and all we have is Christ. He is our Savior, Our High Priest interceding for us, commander-in-chief of heaven’s holy angels commanding them to minister to those who inherit salvation. He is soon to return and we will inherit His kingdom. Maranatha!
Homework: Psalm 91

Electing a President

How do the people of the United States of America elect a President?

The answer: Its a bit complicated… (repost)

Primary Elections Explained

How the Electoral College Works

The Trouble with the Electoral College

God and Government

My dear friend, Pastor Bruce Brock, from Faith Community Church, Tucson, Arizona, preaching on the subject of “God and Goverment.” (Sermon hand out notes below)

God and Government from Faith Community Church on Vimeo.

Sept 29-30, 2012 God and Government HANDOUT


Abortion. Two opposing views:

1. Laws should protect a woman’s right to abortion on demand throughout entire pregnancy. Only judges who agree with this should be confirmed as federal judges.

2. Laws should protect the life of the unborn child throughout pregnancy. Judges should not create new laws about abortion but should leave this to be decided by elected representatives of the people.

What does Scripture say? Ex 21:22-25, Lev 18:21, Ps 139:13-19, Luke 1:41-44.

How could the Supreme Court validate abortion? 14th Amendment

Same-sex marriage. Two opposing views:

1. Government should recognize and promote same-sex marriage. Federal courts should declare any other view unconstitutional (even state constitutional amendments such as Prop. 8 in CA should be nullified by the courts). To speak against this view is hate speech.

2. Government should preserve marriage between one man and one woman. The definition of marriage should be decided by the will of the people through their elected representatives and referendums, not by unelected unaccountable judges.

What does Scripture say? Gen 1:27, Lev 18:22, I Cor 6:9-11, Rom 1:26-28

Freedom of religion. Two opposing views:

1. Freedom of religion should be diminished and become freedom from religion in public places (government events, schools, school buildings, parks, sporting events). First Amendment means government should not even favor all religion in general. Freedom of conscience must be nullified if it stands in the way of supporting abortion-causing drugs, contraceptives, and same-sex “marriage”.

2. Freedom of religion means individuals should be free to express their beliefs in public places. First Amendment means government should not “establish” an official national church, but it should have policies that benefit all religions generally. Government should not force people to violate their consciences over widely-disputed moral issues like abortion, contraceptives, and same-sex “marriage”.

First Amendment NOTE: The First Amendment was not understood by anyone in 1787 (when the Constitution was adopted) to prohibit government officials from freely expressing their own religious beliefs in public and particularly at government functions, nor was it understood that way by the entire legal system of the United States for about the next two centuries. In fact, when Thomas Jefferson was President, church services were regularly held in the Capitol itself. The Marine band played in the services. Services were also held in the Supreme Court building. After the Civil War, the First Congregational Church of Washington held services in the House of Representatives.

What does Scripture say? Matt 22:21, Matt 28:19-20, Acts 5:29.

The Constitution. Two opposing views:

1. The Constitution is a living document that changes meaning according to the changes of society. Judges should tell us how the Constitution is changing and should have power to decide all the major issues facing the nation. (4 justices: Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan)

2. The Constitution has a fixed meaning (its original public meaning, what the words meant when it was adopted). Judges should interpret the Constitution, not change it. The fixed meaning of the Constitution is our foundational protection against the tendency of governments to usurp too much power. The people’s elected representatives, not unelected judges, should decide the major issues facing the nation. (4 justices: Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito).

Who do you want to have the “last word” on these kinds of issues? The courts? The president and/or congress? The people? The founding documents?

What about “separation of church and state”? The basis for separation of church and state is a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State”.

NEXT WEEK: Jesus, the Redeemer of His people, is born in Israel during Roman occupation. There was resistance from the Zealots but Israel was under Rome’s rule. One would think – and some did – that Jesus would deliver Israel from Rome and exalt her above all other nations. Even Pilate – John 18:28-38. Even the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection asked this question – Acts 1:4-6.
How is the church to conduct herself in this time? What should her focus be? NEXT WEEK

Concerning Redistribution of Wealth

Excerpt from Dr. Wayne Grudem’s short book “Business for the Glory of God”:

Some inequality of possessions is fundamentally good and provides many opportunities for glorifying God, but also many temptations to sin; and some extreme inequalities are wrong in themselves.

It may seem surprising to us to think that some inequalities of possessions can be good and pleasing to God. However, although there is no sin or evil in heaven, the Bible teaches that there are varying degrees of reward in heaven and various kinds of stewardship that God entrusts to different people. When we stand before Jesus to give account of our lives, he will say to one person,

“You shall have authority over ten cities,”

and to another,

“You are to be over five cities” (Luke 19:17, 19).

Therefore there will be inequalities of stewardship and responsibility in the age to come. This means that the idea of inequality of stewardship in itself is given by God and must be good.

In a similar teaching, Paul, speaking to believers, says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10). This implies degrees of reward for what we have done in this life. Many other passages teach or imply degrees of reward for believers at the final judgment. Even among the angels, there are differing levels of authority and stewardship established by God, and therefore we cannot say that such a system is wrong or sinful in itself.

Inequalities are necessary in a world that requires a great variety of tasks to be done. Some tasks require stewardship of large amounts of resources (such as ownership of a steel mill or a company that manufactures airplanes), and some tasks require stewardship of small amounts of resources. And God has given some people greater abilities than others, abilities in artistic or musical skills, abilities in mathematics or science, abilities in leadership, abilities in business skills and buying and selling, and so forth. If reward for each person’s labor is given fairly and is based on the value of what that person produces, then those with larger abilities will naturally gain larger rewards. Since people are different in abilities and effort, I don’t think there could be a fair system of rewards for work unless the system had different rewards for different people. Fairness of reward requires such differences.
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Small Increments of Change

Tim Challies reminds us of something very important, especially when it comes to politics and societal change (original source here):

A few years ago I read Paul Chamberlain’s Talking About Good and Bad Without Getting Ugly, a book that proposes ways that Christians can talk about difficult issues—issues like abortion, homosexual marriage, euthanasia—in a pluralistic society. The final chapter is a case study that features William Wilberforce as an example of a man who used his Christian convictions to bring about widespread cultural change. Wilberforce was a driving force behind the abolition of slavery within the British Empire. The results of his efforts are seen and celebrated in Western society to this day.

There was one aspect of his strategy to abolish slavery that I found both a challenge and encouragement. Wilberforce was a realistic man; he knew that the kind of change he longed for required the British people to adopt a whole new mindset and would therefore take time and patience. They had to be led to see that slavery was an afront to the God-given value of human beings. They had to see that the conditions of slavery were an abomination to a nation that claimed to be Christian. They had a lot to learn and such lessons would take time.

Because of the distance the people had to come, Wilberforce was willing to accept incremental improvements. For example, at one point he supported a bill, passed on a trial basis, that would regulate the number of slaves that were permitted to be transported on a single ship. Slaves had previously been laid in rows on benches, chained on their sides with the front of one pressed against the back of the next. This proposed legislation demanded immediate improvements but implictly and explicitly supported the continuance of slavery. Still, Wilberforce saw it as a step in the right direction and for that reason he was willing to support it. Another time he voted for a bill that required plantation owners to register all of their slaves. While this bill also supported slavery, Wilberforce understood that a slave registry would keep plantation owners from adding to their number of slaves by buying them from illegal smugglers.

Wilberforce saw these incremental changes as accomplishing two goals. First, they improved the living and working conditions of slaves. While slavery continued, at least the slaves were afforded a greater amount of dignity, even if it had to be measured in small increments. Second, he believed that affording slaves greater rights set the Empire on a slippery slope. Having acknowledged the humanness of the slaves, people had to admit that slaves were something more than animals. The British Parliament had given approval to bills that Wilberforce knew would eventually but inevitably lead to nothing short of abolition. And of course his beliefs proved to be correct. The incremental changes he lobbied for proved to be the starting point for the eventual abolition of slavery.

Chamberlain points out that this same strategy has been used by those opposed to the dignity of life. Abortion is a prime example. What was first allowed as a concession to protect the physical health of a woman soon became a measure to protect her mental health. Mental health is far less objective than physical health and soon abortion was widespread. From there it was only a small step to societal acceptance.

As I read about Wilberforce I wondered if, put in the position of a parliamentarian, I could support legislation that supported abortion or euthenasia or homosexual marriage, even if that legislation seemed to be a step in the right direction. Would doing this be merely pragmatic? Or would it be sinful to tacitly support something so wrong, even while believing that it would lead to a more biblical end?

Chamberlain suggests that this principle, which we see in the life of Wilberforce, is the hardest to accept. He writes, “In their zeal to achieve a specific goal, whether banning abortion on demand, eliminating poverty or improving labor laws, some today operate with an ‘all or nothing’ mentality. Anything less than accomplishing one’s full goal all at once is viewed as an unacceptable compromise, as giving tacit approval to an unjust practice.”

But I think Chamberlain also helps uncover the solution. We need to be careful, when pondering this kind of a choice, that we do not make a decision based on two alternatives, only one of which is real. Wilberforce knew that he did not have the opportunity to vote for or against slavery. Instead, he was given the opportunity to decide between the status quo and a slight improvement on it. He voted for the improvement. While we might say that in doing so he also voted for slavery, and there may even be some truth to this, the fact is that this vote was not, in reality, for or against slavery. He kept focused on what was immediately attainable, but with his eyes gazing longingly at a future target of complete abolition.

Might we do the same with abortion, euthenasia and the cheapening of marriage? I know of politicians who have refused to vote for incremental change, stating that nothing but the end result would be worth their support. Is it possible that these people missed a golden opportunity to enact at least some level of change that may have proven beneficial? I can’t say and really only God knows for sure. But it is certainly possible that these people were too fixated on the final goal, not realizing that this was simply not attainable. Not yet.

One lesson Chamberlain wants us to learn from Wilberforce’s life is that change, especially change that effects all of society, comes in increments. This is true whether the change is for good or for ill. Those who promote abortion, euthenasia or homosexual marriage seem to realize this and have been effective in their strategy of bringing about change. Perhaps as Christians we have been too focused on the final result and have not been able to know a good thing when we see it.

Not everyone agrees with this approach however. Dr. R. C. Sproul, Jr. responded to this article by writing the following:

To my many pro-life friends – My friend Tim Challies has on his blog written a piece in defense of incrementalism. In the comments section I responded to a commenter, Jefe, who in turn likewise praises said incrementalism with these words- Jefe, What you suggest pro-life folks may need to consider is what we have been doing for decades now. How familiar are you with the faithful labors of your local crisis pregnancy center? Contraception, likewise, has been virtually ubiquitous for decades. You are simply parroting pro-abortion talking points from thirty years ago. Worse still, you just traded the lives of babies. Would you push for legislation that affirms the legitimacy of murdering babies on the weekends, but disallows the murder of babies on weekdays? I’m afraid my friend Tim’s article here unintentionally exposes the folly of both the slavery/abortion equation and incrementalism.

Wilberforce, for all the wonderful ways God used Him, is not our role-model. Jesus is, who tells us to serve the least of these. Jesus left the 99 to rescue the 1. I will not trade a single baby to save millions.

I’d encourage you to take a look at the article, to help you understand how our brothers think on the issue. Tim Challies is an influential man. I am grateful for much that he does, and I do consider him a friend. But this was less than encouraging.

That I used to know

From Fox News: College grads playing the role of lovers scorned by President Obama have scored a smash YouTube hit with a parody of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” The video, which was tracking toward 400,000 hits Friday morning, faithfully covers the original, only under the title, “Obama That I Used to Know.” The clever parody intersperses some of the president’s more soaring lines from the 2008 campaign with laments about the current state of the economy for America’s 20-somethings.

“Now and then I think of that Election Day November,” the song begins. “When you won, I felt so happy I could die.”

Hum along if you know the tune, but it continues: “You can get addicted to a certain kind of message — like this is change we can believe in, yes we can. But college ended had to pay my rent. At least you’re the first gay president. But the change I got is that I moved in with my mother.”

And the chorus: “Because you won and then you cut me off. Now your speeches never soar as high as unemployment. You took ObamaCare so far, but you left me like a dog strapped on Romney’s car.”

Co-creators Justin Monticello and Ryan Newbrough told Fox News they supported the president in 2008, but were reflecting the disillusionment some in their generation are experiencing.

“As the makers of a parody video on YouTube, it’s a little tough to speak to everybody, but I think … it wasn’t unnatural to be kind of attracted to the message that he had,” Monticello said. “And I just think that there are some things he hadn’t delivered on that he promised to do, and that’s why some people are feeling disillusioned.”

Here’s the original video:

Here’s the parody: