FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 13, number 9, February 27, 2014
For God is King of all the earth;
sing praises with a skillful psalm.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits on His holy throne,
Why are so many pastors, and consequently their churches, silent on political or moral issues? Why the reluctance, for example, to enter the public debate on same sex marriage, to encourage church members to register to vote, to make known the positions of political candidates on important issues, or to acknowledge “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” by at least including a bulletin insert on the horrors of abortion?
Some may say that such silence stems from the negative reaction so many in our secular world had to the likes of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority or Randall Terry of Operation Rescue, fueled it would seem, by the right wing conservative politics of the Reagan presidency. After all, calling for America to return to God and the Bible, to live by what God says in His word, was and still is anathema to the secularist. So in a desire to reach the “cultured despisers” of the gospel, many pastors have decided to steer clear of anything that may upset the secular world. To speak against racism, social injustice, or human sex trafficking is, of course, okay; since everyone, including the secularist is rightly opposed to these things. These are no brainers. However to speak against abortion, same sex marriage and the redefining of marriage, excessive taxation beyond that allowed in Scripture, and liberal Supreme Court judges who wish to change our nation through judicial fiat are quite another story. So, many in the church remain silent on these issues in order to gain a hearing for the gospel to the secularist. It seems the ultimate goal is not to offend the secularist.
But there is another reason for such reluctance to bring to bear God’s word on all issues in the secular world; and that reason is two kingdom theology. The Father told His Son, “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, Thou shalt shatter them like earthenware,” (Psalm 2:8-9). The Psalmist proclaims Elohim as King of all the earth, that He reigns over the nations, that He sits on His holy throne (Psalm 47:7-8). And, “The Lord says to My Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.’ The Lord will stretch forth Thy strong scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Thine enemies,'” (Psalm 110:1-2). The post-exilic prophet Zechariah says, “And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord (Yahweh) will be the only one, and His name the only one,” (Zechariah 14:9). Jesus told His disciples, after His resurrection, just prior to His ascension, “All authority has been given to Me,” (Matthew 28:18). Paul says that Jesus is the head over all rule and authority and power and dominion (Ephesians 1:21, Colossians 1:15-20). The Apostle John refers to Jesus as the “ruler of the kings of the earth,” (Revelation 1:5). And one of the seven messengers proclaimed, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever,” (Revelation 11:15).
There is one kingdom, not two. Jesus Christ is Lord of all creation for He defeated sin, Satan, and death on the cross by His resurrection from the dead (Romans 6:1-7, 1 John 3:8, 1 Corinthians 15:26). This does not mean that the state and the church are synonymous. We rightly understand the church has no right to “bear the sword” in administering civil justice for that is the express purpose of the civil magistrate (Romans 13:1-7); nor does the state have a right to encroach on the church and silence her from speaking on social, moral, or political issues.
But contrary to what many have been saying, there is one kingdom and Christ is Lord in that one kingdom. The two kingdom idea, simply put, is that while Christ is Lord in the church, one of the kingdoms, His word has little to say about politics or the ordering of society in the second kingdom, the world. To go further, D.G. Hart says, “The basic teachings of Christianity are virtually useless for resolving America’s political disputes, thus significantly reducing, if not eliminating, the dilemma of how to relate Christianity and American politics.” A Reformed pastor in California, for example, said that the church should not only not speak on Proposition 8, but actually should oppose it. In other words, the two kingdom idea says that the Christian has no Biblical mandate to seek changes in the social, cultural, or political order; that to speak of a Biblical worldview or principles for living is to misuse the Bible; that God’s principles for governing society are found, not in Scripture, but in natural law; that natural law is determined, not by Scripture, but by human reason and conscience; that while Scripture teaches about Christ, His atonement, and our redemption from sin, it does not tell us how to apply that salvation to our current problems.
Two kingdom teaching has made its way into many Reformed and Presbyterian churches and is rendering the church increasingly irrelevant to our culture. To buy in to two kingdom teaching is to give away the farm. It is to surrender to the secularist and God-hater. It is like the anchor on a mile relay team quitting half way through his quarter mile leg, walking off the track, causing the rest of his team to lose the relay race. It is a mindset of retreat and cowardice. It truncates the gospel, the authority of Christ, the three-fold use of the Law of God (to drive the sinner to Christ, to tell people how they are to live in the world, and to show the Christian his sin which is to move him to repentance), and the word of God. It jettisons God’s word in favor of an ill-defined natural theology that changes at the whims of culture. One well known Reformed preacher and author, in addressing the issue of homosexuality, instead of calling it an abomination (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13), appealed to natural law by saying, “This activity does not promote human flourishing.”
Until pastors and church leaders regain their confidence in the authority of Scripture for all of life, until they are willing to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord of all the earth, including their own secular, godless nation, then we will continue to fade into the background, being overrun by secularists, agnostics, atheists, and Muslims. The only hope is to seek God in humility, depending upon the Holy Spirit to break down the unbelief of our culture through the preaching of God’s word, applying it practically and specifically to every area of life.
1. I previously have written on the church’s prophetic role in the world. See my devotionals “Now What?”, November 8, 2012; “May Christians Engage in Civil Disobedience?”, November 15, 2012; “The When and How of Civil Disobedience,” November 22, 2012, at <www.pefministry.org>
2. For a comprehensive and detailed analysis of “two kingdom theology” I urge you to read John Frame’s The Escondido Theology, especially pages 1-21 and pages 247-274 as well as Frame’s The Doctrine of the Christian Life, pages 609-614.