Monthly Archives: July 2009

Short-term mission trips: Sanctified vacations?

One of the biggest elephants in the evangelical, missiological, soul-winning room is the lingering question of just how much good short-term mission trips1 are and whether or not they merely amount to sanctified vacations taken at the expense of others.

Now, to be fair, I’m not claiming that either the missionaries or those who fund them are intentionally nefarious. On the contrary; I believe that for the most part, those who go on short term mission trips and those who support them financially have honest evangelistic intentions. I am simply wondering whether we’ve fostered this “super spiritual” mindset around something we call “the mission field” and, as a result, neglect to ask the burdensome and unpopular questions of stewardship and effectiveness.

How did we get here?

Before we continue, however, I think it would be helpful to stop and examine the origins and history of the short-term mission trips.

Modern technology has recently made travel possible in ways that have not been heard of before. Where it used to take a month or more to cross seas, let alone oceans, now only takes a matter of hours. Where it took a significant investment of funds, logistics, and time, we are now endowed with the ability to decide to travel half way around the world on a whim provided you have your passport and appropriate shots.

While rapid travel is excellent for taking vacations in exciting new foreign locales, it was only widely incorporated into the evangelical arsenal within the last 100 years. By many accounts, YWAM pioneered this phenomenon less than 50 years ago.

A closer look at the problem

For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. -Paul in 1 Cor 16:11

Discipleship requires more than a passing visit. Sure, it’s great to visit with people and make new connections, but when we talk about missions we need to step back and examine what our goals are in order to evaluate how we are going about them.

With that in mind, let’s look at “the great commission” which is often used as a foundation for missionary endeavors.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20

This text is often exegeted to make “Go” the focus of this passage so that the imperative is for us to go out into “the mission field” and proselytize new converts. However, a more accurate exegesis would be “as you are going” since, in the Greek, the emphasis is on the making of disciples as you are going (i.e. wherever you go).

Unfortunately, if we place the emphasis on the going we end up thinking that we are lessened as followers of Christ if we don’t physically go on “mission trips”. This often leads to a false sense of super spirituality among those who do go whom we, in turn, call “missionaries”.

I need to point out here that not all missionaries have this tendency and that I am not claiming that those who do go are wholly unnecessary, on the contrary, we are each called to different work. I am merely pointing out that every follower of Christ is both called to be a missionary and is, in fact, “on a mission” wherever they are and that wherever our mission field is, we are called to make disciples2.

So whats wrong with short term mission trips?

So what’s wrong with taking a week out of your busy week and traveling overseas to make disciples? Well, nothing per se, but the problem comes in with how these short term mission trips are both seen; as an imperative of the great commission and a spiritual measuring stick, as well as how they are carried out; in many cases, without much thought to stewardship or logistics.

We’ve already seen how the great commission does not imply a need to go to foreign lands in order to be obedient to Christ’s command to make disciples, but because this is the prevalent view, we often see a person’s willingness to go as well as their having been as badges of honor to show others how spiritual we are.  This is, of course, wholly unbiblical, but when teachers of the Word give the impression that “go” is the emphasis of the great commission, how can we blame them?

Have we really counted the cost?

Because of this misunderstanding of the great commission and what it truly means to make disciples of those around us, we tend to overlook questions of stewardship and logistics. In fact, since we think the imperative is to go we tend to start to think that any cost is acceptable and questions of logistics are a mere nuisance.

How much does a round-trip plane ticket usually cost to travel overseas? $1,000, $2,000? More? Once you count the cost of food, lodging, transportation, etc. you can often approach figures well over $3,000 just to send a single person overseas. Is this really the best way to reach the lost?

What about the logistics? Have we thought about the continued training of the people we minister to? How much good are we doing if we merely succeed in piquing a person’s interest and do not arrange for the perpetual spiritual nourishment that comes from sound teaching and training? Worse yet; How much more of a child of hell do we make those whom we merely seek to have “make a decision” just so that we can add another notch in our spiritual belt?

I am not advocating that we abandon our brothers and sisters in need who live across the ocean, but the biggest question here is one of efficiency and what would be the best way to accomplish what we seek.

What is it we really want to accomplish?

So now we come to the elephant, the sticky question of why we go on short term mission trips that cost inordinate amounts of money and whose impact for the kingdom is often left unquestioned.

Why do we go? Why do we really go? If our real aim is to make disciples as we are commanded to, then we will gladly step back and examine the questions raised above (and many will come to the conclusion that short-term, long-distance mission trips are simply not a good idea) but I believe the main reason most Christians go is to satisfy a desire for an emotional experience which they equate with “being close to God”. And therein lies the heart of our dilemma.

In the end, what’s the difference?

When we take vacations, we are expecting experiential reward. We don’t expect to leave a lasting impact on the lands we travel to, and we expect to receive a euphoric high from our experiences. Sadly, most testimonies I hear from short-term missionaries are wholly self-centered (though they are couched in  a plethora of “Jesus speak”) with the focus being on the person as opposed to the message and often with little thought as to the lasting impact and cost vs. benefit to the congregation that helped send them.

In closing, I’m sure some short-term trips are worthwhile, that is certainly a matter for individual mission councils. I simply wish the Body of Christ would stop pretending that short-term mission trips are commanded or are anything like what we read about in the New Testament and start putting serious thought into the resources we are spending and the attitudes we are fostering and promoting.

It’s great to say we are “missional people”, but that becomes a completely nonsensical term if we fail to step back and carefully and Biblically define it.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mat 28:20  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
  1. My scope here is limited to trips that are also known commonly as “summer missions” which typically last between 1 to 3 weeks. []
  2. Also translated “to teach” and “instruct”. []
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Who am I?

The Questions

Who am I? What constitutes me? Am I merely the sum total of my physical atoms? What about the soul? Is there any evidence for it’s existence?

These are questions that have been raised in an article written by an atheist friend of mine following a discussion on secular morality and justice. In this article the author raises the question of the soul, defined as a “spark of life”, specifically the  it consists of and how it relates to the concept of justice.

The question of identity is, indeed, very complex and has been fought over and discussed as far back as we have recorded history. This is probably because of it’s close proximity to the two fundamental questions of philosophy, “Who am I” and “Why am I here?”. In short, meaning and purpose.

While I won’t attempt to provide an exhaustive exploration of the subject, something I will defer to men like J.P. Moreland and Jon Rittenhouse, I will address the question of the soul in two parts. First, the secular notion that the soul is merely a “spark of life” and the second that the soul is independent of our memories and consciousness.

The “spark” came from somewhere

The field of teleology, or the study of the design and purpose of objects, has been all but abandoned with the rise of philosophical naturalism, and Darwinism in particular, in the 18th century. This is unfortunate since, if we were still attuned to asking the questions this field covered, we would immediately recognize the question a notion of a soul, even in it’s most simplistic “spark of life” form, begs.

Where did the spark come from?

We need to answer this question before we can begin to answer what the spark is here for or what it’s attributes are1. I would readily agree that the spark exists, at least in part, to drive and direct growth and development in living organisms. Stem cells are a perfect example of the need for such a teleological force2 to direct these “super cells” which contain the potential to develop into any number of different types of tissue to actually develop into the tissue the body needs at the appropriate time.

The origin of the soul is of utmost import since, in order to retain a philosophical presupposition of naturalistic causes, a materialist must come up with a natural explanation of what is inherently non-physical and therefore metaphysical.

Theists, however, would easily recognize the origin of the spark that gives us life to be a raging fire in the form of God.

Outside of a prejudice against a metaphysical mind that is similar, yet superior to ours, there is no reason to think that our soul not only had it’s beginning with a creator God but also bears some resemblance to this God in accordance to what we are taught in Scripture about being created in the image of God.

We can be less than human

Peter Kreeft has observed that the question of identity is addressed as a central theme in J.R.R. Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings series. Through such characters such as Gollum and Sauron, Tolkien fleshed out the concept of “inhuman” by showing us that evil corrupts us and has a visible (though not as drastic as the characters in LOTR) impact upon our lives. We are very accustomed to thinking of such heinous crimes we read about in the papers as having been done by people we deem “inhuman”. We even liken these people to animals many times as a way to show that their actions are not in keeping with what we think it means to be a human being.

Consequently, we consider people who give their lives for the sake of others to be “heroes” and “saints”. We call their work “humanitarian” and consider them to be better examples of what it means to be a human being. We hail as heroes people like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and many more who have willingly risked, and in some cases paid, much for the sake of others. If we, our souls included, are merely a compilation of atoms that will be forever lost or “wiped clean” when we die, such acts of altruism ought not to be praised but pitied.

We don’t operate on these naturalistic assumptions, however. We somehow expect that our actions will outlive our bodies and even the recipients of our actions. If we get right down to it, we expect our actions to have ramifications that transcend the physical realm. Regardless of what we claim to believe, the way we live our lives betrays that we really believe that, as Maximus puts it in Gladiator, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”

Why the distinction?

When we are borne, we have no memory, no ability to communicate3 our ideas, and no “personality”. Throughout our childhood our minds are grown, ideas acquired, and personality formed. If we were merely products of external stimuli and genetic predispositions, we should expect siblings that grow up in similar environments with similar genetic makeups to behave and think the same, or at least very similar. What we find, however, is that while environment and genetic makeup do have a notable influence on us, we are ultimately endowed with a consciousness that is not inexorably shackled to our material makeup. In short, we have the ability to be human or inhuman. Good or bad, kind or cruel.

The source of such freedom in action cannot logically come from a purely material source4 since, by definition, a purely physical existence would mean there we are mere robots.

However, we are not robots trapped in a coldly deterministic universe. We have the freedom to choose whether to be kind or cruel and our choices, good and bad, shape us and mold us. Our consciousness grows. We may begin as a “spark of life” but we grow into much more. As our bodies grow, so does our consciousness.

What does this have to do with justice?

When we talk about the soul in relationship to the justice we expect to see in the world we must first step back and ask ourselves why we expect to find justice in the first place. If the world is merely a product of time + chance + matter5 then the concept of “justice” becomes merely an expression of our individual preference. Further, since the universe as we know it will eventually end, a fact that is established as firmly as that the universe had a beginning, any and all of our preferences, thoughts, actions, etc. that are done therein are rendered meaningless if they do not transcend the physical realm.

However, if our souls are metaphysical and our consciousness rooted in our soul6 then the notion of the finality of death is, in turn, called into question. If we don’t cease to exist when we die, but are rather judged according to what we have become7, then the justice given is not diminished but rather made more complete since at the end of one’s physical existence we would have a fer better idea of their chosen direction in life. This would also provide adequate time (in most cases) for us to repent of past wrongdoings and redirect our course in life.

In this view, the end of justice is not placed outside of what we can know. Most people understand a sense of justice, shame, guilt, and an idea that their actions have real rather than merely perceived significance. From a naturalistic perspective, it is hard to see where such ideas of transcendence and purpose come from if we are merely our physical bodies who are here one day and gone the next.

Rephrasing the question

Ultimately the question of the soul and our identity must be answered by answering a relative question of, “Where does my value lie?”

If my value lies in my physical makeup then we call into question our relative equality and we run into the question of the finality of our universe and whether justice really matters or is simply a mental construct we’ve tricked ourselves into believing. Eugenics and the historical atrocities perpetuated in it’s name ought to serve as a somber warning against placing our value in anything physical or temporal.

If my value lies in my metaphysical soul then I am free to love others as much or more than myself. I am free to pursue altruistic goals such as laying down my life for my fellow man and am justified in thinking my actions matter beyond the end of this universe. In fact, it is only in a specifically theistic universe that questions of justice, love, mercy, and worth make any sense because it is only in a theistic worldview where these concepts are objective and carry meaning beyond our existence.

The wisest man who ever lived once said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”8 I think his words are worth pondering, because they cut to the core of our question of who we are.

  1. Such as whether or not it can retain memories or grow along with the physical organism it directs. []
  2. That is, something outside the physical atoms and quarks that makes up the organism that provides direction and purpose. []
  3. Outside of crying []
  4. The reason for this comes from a long line of sophisticated philosophical arguments discussed recently in a series of articles published in Philosophia Christi. For more information look up “causally closed naturalism“ []
  5. Which still begs the question of how any of this came into existence in the first place. []
  6. So that we don’t possess a soul but rather are our soul. []
  7. That is, what we have turned our spark into. []
  8. Mark 8:36, Luke 9:25 []
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The missing link of a Great Commission Resurgence: Apologetics

The Southern Baptist Convention, of which I am a member, has undertaken a challenge recently laid down by Southeastern Theological Seminary president Dr. Danny Akin in his sermon “12 Axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence”. This challenge, in a nutshell, is to get back to our Biblical roots and primary mission of telling the world about Jesus.

While the axioms that make up the core of this movement are quite sound, I believe we are missing one key to actually bringing about a resurgence or making ourselves as Southern Baptists agents of change in our culture. Specifically, how we do evangelism.

I’m not talking about methods or programs, I’m talking about how we prepare and train for engaging a culture that is increasingly hostile to the objective claims of the gospel. The risks we run rushing unprepared into a world that, as Francis Schaeffer once said, is unable to even process the epistemic notion that there could be such a thing as objective truth and that we as mere mortals could dare to know it.

In short, we need to step back and make sure we do some serious preparation among our own members before we send them out. We need to encourage an intentional investment by local churches into apologetic training. Learning both the tactics and the information necessary to stand firm on the rock solid foundation of the faith that many throughout history have died defending.

Interestingly enough, the North American Mission Board has a program well-suited to the task of assisting local churches in their efforts to train and equip their members to “contend for the faith” as Paul encouraged Jude1 . This is known as the Certified Apologetics Instructors program directed by Mike Licona, a well known and respected defender of the faith.

If churches are serious about taking up the Great Commission Resurgence challenge and truly wish to engage the world around them, to storm the gates of Hell as it were2 , I hope they make use of the fine apologists who belong to this program and who are ready, willing, and able to serve their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in equipping them with sound training.

  1. Jude 1:3 []
  2. Matthew 16:18 []
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Thou shalt not judge

The problem

Josh McDowell has stated that in our day, Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge…” has replaced John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…” as the most widely recognized and quoted verse.

I believe this to be the case and I think the primary reason for it, at least in our culture, is the postmodern attitude our culture has taken when it comes to truth in general and moral truth in particular1. As alarming as this is, though, what I find more alarming is how this shift in focus has affected most professing believers and how this shift has made us largely ineffective in changing the culture around us.

Origins

To begin with this topic, however, we must first understand what man was created to do. In Genesis 2:15-23 we see several things including:

  • Adam was placed into the garden to work and keep it
  • Adam was given free reign over the garden to “eat of every tree in the garden”
  • Adam was told not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
  • it was not good for Adam to be alone
  • Adam was given the authority to name the animals God had made
  • upon creating Eve, the first thing Adam did was name her

In order to do the things the man was responsible for he required the ability to judge a variety of things Good, evil, what to eat, where to work, what to name, etc. In short, the man was created with a sense of judgement which was also required for him to accomplish the work he was given.

All humans since Adam have been given (to greater or lesser extent) the ability and responsibility to judge the world around them. Not merely amoral2 things but immoral things as well. In fact, the whole of Scripture calls us to account for our lapses in judgement.

In light of being created as judging creatures we can return to the original question of judging as raised by contemporary Christians.

Is it wrong to judge?

Matthew 7:1 would seem to indicate it is at first blush, but a more careful examination will reveal that the judgement being cautioned against here is not merely the distinction of right and wrong, it is the practice of condemnation. As 20th century readers, we forget that our own justice system is divided into at least two parts3 when it comes to courtroom trials. There’s the initial portion of the trial in which guilt or innocence is established and, if guilty, there is the sentencing portion where the judge (or jury in some cases) decides what the guilty party ought to pay in order to make up for their crime.

It’s the second portion that we are told in Matthew not to presume to take up and to proceed with caution when we go to judge a person’s actions as right or wrong lest we apply a harsher standard to them than we would want applied to us. Interestingly enough, the rest of Matthew 7 is often either ignored or overlooked but it is precisely the rest of Matthew 7 that puts the “do not judge” from Matthew 7:1 into perspective.

What about forgiveness?

Unfortunately, many people think that judgement excludes forgiveness. What many fail to realize is that forgiveness entails judgement, something the Pharisees understood all too well in Mk 2:7 and Lk 5:21. When we forgive we make several assumptions, including:

  • An offence or moral wrongdoing has occurred which requires judgement
  • We are in the position of judgement
  • We have the ability to sentence the offender in some capacity

Without these premises being true, our forgiveness is as meaningless as the rantings of a madman. However, this also means that even the act of forgiveness is an act of judgement. It is merely an act of judgement wherein we rescind the sentence or penalty.

In other words, we see an offence, we deem it to be wrong, and if we are the party that was offended, we release the person from their punishment as far as we have authority.

In this view of judgement being combined with forgiveness we neither sacrifice moral responsibility or a loving and forgiving attitude towards others. Both of which we are commanded to do at the same time.

Conclusion

We should not be afraid to judge and even admit to others that this is what we are doing when we deem an action right or wrong.

As long as we remember our place when it comes to the scope of our authority, namely that we do not posess the power to condemn anyone to eternal hellfire. And if we remember the commands of Christ to freely forgive as we have been freely forgiven. We will be able to truly love eachother in truth and love without sacrificing or softening either one in the process.

Justice and forgiveness are not mutually exclusive, they go hand in hand.

  1. A condition known as moral relativism. []
  2. non-moral, things that have no moral significance []
  3. There are more or less depending on the laws and specific case, but these two portions of the establishment of guilt and the establishment of the penalty are common to most courts in most countries. []
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Why you should love Greek

I recently embarked on a quest to learn the Greek language. Or, as ESV translator Dr. William Mounce1 puts it in his lesson series “Greek tools for Bible Study“, I want to learn Greek in order to understand Scripture better. In other words, I set out to learn a “little Greek“.

Outside of a desire to know what the authors of the New Testament originally wrote, I didn’t think there would be much use for knowing a language that is no longer in use2 but as I have studied, I have found that there are quite a number of English words that come from Greek.

Learning Greek will help you understand (or at least remember) many theological terms like hamartia (gk: αμαρτια) which, when combined with the Greek word λογια, or “discourse”, turns into hamartiology or the study of sin. There’s also ecclesiology, soteriology, eschatology, etc. All of these theological terms have a root in a Greek word. Learning the Greek word will help you remember which area each area of study covers.

Learning Greek will also build your English vocabulary by helping you understand the etymologies of common (and not so common) words. The advantage of knowing the root Greek words behind English terms such as ‘adaiphoria‘ (gk: ἀδιάφορος) is that you also learn other words that are derived from the same Greek root word and, as a result, you learn new English terms at the same time you are learning new Greek terms.

Of course, as Dr. Mounce stated in one of his lectures, the single greatest reason for learning Greek is to put into practice what we say about the Bible being God’s inspired and inerrant Word. I was very convicted when I heard him ask the rhetorical question: “If it’s as important as we say it is, why don’t we take the time to learn the language it was originally written in so we can understand it better?” Ultimately this is the reason to continue slogging through first and second order declensions, case endings, etc. Consequently, this is also what Dr. Mounce writes in the beginning of his book, Basics of Biblical Greek to help motivate us to stick with it.

So, as I work through Greek I hope to post tools and resources I’ve found helpful along the way. To start with, I want to share some resources to help you learn the Greek alphabet.

The best memory aids in learning the Greek alphabet I’ve seen so far is a combination of this popular song3 and this mnemonic (gk: μνημονικός) device taught to grade school children by a rather inventive teacher through a clever story. While they won’t help you memorize the symbols or the phonetics, they do help you remember the basic alphabet.

If anyone reading this knows of any other helpful resources, pneumatic devices, songs, etc. that you’ve found useful while learning Greek let me know!

  1. Personal website, Greek tutorial site []
  2. The Greek used today is not the same as the Koine Greek used in the time of Christ. []
  3. For those who like techno music, here is a spin off with a beat mixed in. []
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Licensed to kill

Well, not exactly. But I am now a fully Certified Apologetics Instructor through the North American Mission’s Board.

Check it out:

My CAI cert

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Don’t get caught up in civilian affairs

Today is July the 3rd. Tomorrow, most Americans will celebrate the birth of our nation. The day after that, most Churches will echo those celebrations with services bursting with national pride including patriotic music, tales of freedom bought at a high price, and special recognition of the brave men and women who keep us safe at night.

Sadly, most people reading this will not see anything wrong with the series of events I’ve outlined above.

I’m not sure if this is because we have been brought up with such an unashamed blending of nationalism and Christianity or whether we really do believe that the sacrifice and freedom bought by American soldiers holds a candle to the sacrifice and freedom bought by God’s only Son. I’m also not sure we really understand how our brethren around the world view this unashamed blending of the political and the Holy. And finally, I am not really sure most Americans really care that these events rival only Christmas in their display of the Church’s captivity by the American culture.

One of the best examples of this unholy blending is from the resolutions made during the recent Southern Baptist Conference 2009, the denomination I am a member of.

Join with the American Family Association in “calling on the Pepsi-Cola Company to remain neutral in the culture war in our country by refraining from promoting the gay/lesbian lifestyle and agenda.”

This may seem innocuous at first, but the AFA is a.) not the Church and b.) a VERY political organization.

The Order of Business Committee received a motion stipulating that the convention post the American flag, accompanied by an honor guard, at the convention’s annual meetings.

This motion was made in a denomination whose unifying goal is to reach the nations with the Gospel.

Produce only American-made Vacation Bible School resources.

It’s hard to tell whether this motion was made more out of misplaced national pride or a poor understanding of economics.

Declare a “Sanctity of Life Year” in the near future.

This, and many other motions, were intended as direct responses to actions of the current Presidential administration. While they may be good ideas in general, the fact that they are reactionary and politically motivated speaks poorly of our supposedly Christ-centered worldview.

Start a petition to “end abortion in America and the funding of Planned Parenthood, along with all other abortion-providing entities.”

Motions like make me raise the question “Why only America?” almost instinctively.

Condemning President Obama for declaring June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month.

Who are we to condemn anyone? Additionally, what good does such a motion do other than reinforce a negative image in the GLBT movement’s mind?

Adopt the U.S. Christian Flag “as a tangible symbol to unify the American believers under one flag to fulfill the Great Commission.”

This last one is my favorite because it truly sums up the whoring we’ve done when it comes to fusing our Christianity with our national pride.

Greg Boyd, author of “The myth of a Christian nation“, produced an excellent  sermon series entitled “The Cross and the Sword” where he outlines the unbiblical and often antithetical attitude fusing the kingdom of God (identified by the Cross) and the kingdom of the world (identified by the sword).

Shane Claiborne, author of “Jesus for President“, has also frequently addressed the problem of fusing the two kingdoms and he makes an interesting observation in one of his sermons. Specifically, fusing the two kingdoms has the unfortunate consequence of creating an unnatural tension within soldiers who are tasked with killing people in the name of Caesar. Because of this fusing of kingdoms, are also told that what they are doing is somehow “God’s will” so that, while they know killing is wrong and evil, we (that is, the Church) don’t even acknowledge the artifacts of a fallen world they are wrestling with because of our nationalistic blinders.

Now, to be fair, Aristotle once said “Man is by nature a political animal” and I believe this issue is more complex than simply advocating for some sort of Kantean wall to be built between our religious and political convictions. One of the best debates I’ve heard on the extent of involvement a Christian should have with the government was held between Shane Claiborne, Greg Boyd, and Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, at the National Pastor’s Convention. The subject of a Christian’s relationship and responsibility to the government under which they find themselves is complex and very nuanced1.

Even with all the complexity and nuances surrounding this issue of church and state and how we are to live as a whole being in both realms,  we still know some things are just plain wrong.

For example, when we start producing themed Bibles like “The American Patriot’s Bible2 we give fuel to those who stand back and equate Christianity with the Republican party and with America as a whole.

When politicians run for office using their “Christianity” as a selling point, why don’t we (as the Church) call them to the carpet and ask them to just stop? Or, as an atheist friend of mine3 once commented regarding the recent debacle with South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford

…like the Sanford guy, he’s quoting the bible and stuff, but if he REALLY believed at his core the bible type stuff then he would be more afraid of God than the media.

He would not have done that stuff at all.

He’s only upset he got caught.

This type of political posturing on the Bible is even worse when we consider that the majority of the founding fathers, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, etc. were deists, cutting out large portions of their Bibles they found untenable, or very liberal in their beliefs and interpretation of Scripture (also known as Episcopalian) at best. The common chord among the founding fathers was their belief and upholding of virtue as necessary for the forming of the republic. Since most of them were raised in a predominantly Christian culture, their sense of virtue was largely shaped by the Bible. We shouldn’t, however, draw from this correlation any inference that the founding fathers were any more or less devout in their following of Christ than the political leaders we see today.

The fact remains, however, that Jesus himself is the chief proponent of the separation of Church and state4 who avoided political issues5, taught that the sword was not a part of the kingdom he was ushering in6, told us to love our enemies7, did not advocate political rebellion8, and who willingly suffered the judgements of a corrupt government9.

Politics, national politics that is, has no place in the Church. One can easily make a case that the first time the Church was fused with a nation it severely damaged the Church. In fact, I would point out that every time in history where the Church has been wed to the state we have seen some of the worst atrocities and misrepresentations of Christ there have ever been.

Francis Schaeffer said it best in his book, “The Great Evengelical Disaster” pg. 118,

…we must stand against those who would naively baptize all in the past and that would wrap Christianity in the country’s flag.

We should also keep in mind 2Ti 2:4,

No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

National politics are temporal, a trap to sap our time and energy in an otherwise good intention of changing the world and culture around us for good.

However the reality is that laws don’t change people, only Christ does. Let’s keep our eyes focused on Him Sunday and resist the urge to wrap our Christianity in our nation’s flag.

UPDATE (7/17): Since posting this blog I found a deconversion testimony from a former pastor that sums up much of the dangers I mention in this post with the following statement:

A precursor to my religious views changing was a seismic shift in my political views. My political views were so entangled with Fundamentalist beliefs that when my political views began to shift, my Fundamentalist beliefs began to unravel.

I can better describe my political and social views than I can my religious ones.

I hope that you are as grieved when you read those words as I am. The blending of politics and religion we have become infatuated with in this country has to stop.

  1. A great book on this subject is Francis Schaeffer’s ‘A Christian Manifesto‘ []
  2. Here is an excellent commentary on this Bible by Boyd. []
  3. The author of LegalizeThought.com []
  4. Luk 20:25 []
  5. Act 1:6 []
  6. Mat 26:52 []
  7. Mat 5:44 []
  8. Joh 18:36 []
  9. Which harmonizes with what Paul tells persecuted Christians in Rom 13:3-4 []
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