Monday, April 7, 2008

The Church and the State Relationship, Part 4

Many legitimate questions have been raised in the first three parts of this series, and the feedback received, as it is established there is no pure separation of the church from the state, and in fact the state wields influence on the church’s internal activities by the very nature of its incorporation and tax exempt status. My friend ECD Pilgrim is concurrently looking at other aspects of the relationship, as well as internal governance issues.

Jesus Christ addressed a situation very similar to what the church in the United States faces today. In his famous interaction in Matthew 12:13-17 (cp. Matthew 22:15-22, Luke 20:20-26), where He was entrapped into a lose-lose situation, Our Lord showed his ensnarers were no match for Him. We must realize that at the time the Temple had aligned with Caesar in a quid pro quo relationship, and backed the oppressive tax render going to Caesar and his minions for their own benefit. There was a legitimate dispute about whether it was legitimate and there was a resistance among many of the believers to pay the tax because it was illegitimate. Our Lord, clearly separates the kingdoms here and shows that the state is always under and subject to God’s authority as it is all His.

So, as pointed out in Part 1, the church has ceded its diaconal ministry to the state and I would further state ,I believe as a matter of convenience or expediency, or at best as a serious lack of discernment. Consider it for the best part gone, as the taxation by the government has placed many church members diaconal gifts rendered to the state as they are the ones whose care we have placed our widows, orphans, elderly and disabled under.

So as we look at governance we need to look at the larger issue, to whom do we ultimately depend on as Christians, Our God or our state? I am not condemning anyone who by nature of the system we live under, has been forced to paid into and receives retirement or disability from the state. Ex post facto condemnation is wrong and is the worst of monday morning quarterbacking.

Our legitimate areas of concern of the church needs to be how we can be faithful to our Lord and live in both kingdoms, rather than making the church a subsection of the state to be used. The first area I think we must meet with strong resistance is liberation theology. In that article I quote Hoyos, “When I see the church with a machine gun, I can not see the crucified Christ (or the risen Christ)in that church”

How do Christians effect change in society? How does that meld with the great commission? I am not for one minute suggesting that Christians take no part in the earthly kingdom of the state, I am suggesting however, it becomes wrong for the church to be a political arm of the state. There are current theologians who have watered down their effectiveness for the gospel of Jesus Christ by wrapping Jesus in the flag. There are others who promote our alliance with the state for programs the “church can’t afford otherwise”, by taking public funds. You can justify it by working within the system and using to our benefit pragmatically. I will agree on one point, “the church can’t afford” to be in such a relationship as she cedes even more authority every time she takes a single dime from the state (all inclusive of government).

We are not our own, and we have been bought with a price . Until we start taking our worldviews and our eschatologies out to the grander scale we see scripture dictating, we have to end our reliance and alliances with the state in any future actions we take. While each of us has our particular worldviews, there is one thing we have in common as the mission of the church, and that is to spread the good news until the day of the Lord.

We must stop where we are and think seriously about our actions and the message the church is sending to the world. Many view us not as an offense, but either just plain offensive, as malcontents, or just plain idiots, and who do we have to blame?

In our common missions, in preaching Christ crucified, in preaching the risen Savior, in equipping the saints and worshipping the Living Triune God, who is alive and well, we need to start to remove the stumbling blocks we place in the way of the gospel. There are so few faithful churches todays, our core message should not be our politics, our activism, our economic theories, it needs to be the whole counsel of God, preached faithful, and worship of our Triune God in spirit and in truth. When we do this, we will affect the earthly kingdom and being obedient to our Master, the one who owns us. We can work across most worldview lines. We have allowed Satan to use this to our detriment in our effectivesness on influence in our community and our culture.

I believe at the same time we need to have systemic theology taught, our children need to be brought up in the faith and properly trained in the confessions of the faith, so they know their own comfort in life and are able to share the hope that lies within them. It is then we build a strong family, a strong church and a strong community. Until those occur we are just fragmenting and spinning wheels with some illusion of what could or should be with no practical implementation of it.

The church needs to put the cart back behind the horse, clearly focus on its scriptural mission and work within the earthly kingdom. Until our own houses and houses are in order, and our reliance is on God and not the state to effectualize change, we are like the jeep stuck up to its axles in mud. Jehovah Jireh , He is our Provider .Soli Deo Gloria.

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