Christian Interference with Culture
"One cannot keep on evangelizing the world without interfering
with the world's culture... in Christ man is restored to God as
a cultural creature to serve his maker in the world and as ruler
over the world for God's sake."
Henry R. Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture.
It was recently posited to me that neither Paul nor Jesus give us an example of "sticking up for their religious rights' and therefore we ought not to either. First of all I do not know that as Christians we are to expect that we intrinsically deserve any so called religious rights. We are bought with a price- we are not our own. However, I believe I can point to some scriptural evidences that both Jesus and Paul did indeed operate in a manner that did engage them with the legal issues of their day specific to the governmental authorities and rights accorded to them, and called us to do so as well. We must simply determine what follows from the context that can be applied to our situation.
I also believe that there is a case to be made from the following that submitting to authorities means in our context submitting to the Constitution of the United States which includes a First amendment that we must uphold. I must also contend that submission is not a negative wordthat implies subjugation. Submission never implies inferiority- it has to do with roles. In our submission a confession is implies- an agreement with its role of authority.
Mark 12:17 "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God
what is God's."- Jesus
Romans 13:1 "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established." Paul the Apostle
The words of Christ that we tend to read so easily - "You are the salt of the Earth. You are the Light of the world," are actually a radical imperative. In these few short words Christ commands Christians to confront their culture and to be a preservative influence in it. This does not mean keeping the status quo of the dominant culture- it ultimately means laying your life down for truth and justice if called for. A Christian who confronts his culture will, barring a miracle of God, become marginalized. John 15:18-19 alludes to this. I would submit that any time a God fearing righteous man rises to political power you are looking at a walking, breathing miracle upheld by God.
Ultimately, our fight for our liberties as ordained by our Constitution is an obedience rendered unto God. God expects the Christian to obey, respect and participate in the government they have been placed under the authority of. He who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has established.
"All authority, whether in the home, school, state, church, or any other sphere is subordinate authority and is under God and subject to his Word," writes Rushdoony (The Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 267).
When a government strays from obedience to the God who gave it authority we must obey God. But where that government seeks to uphold and provide constructs that exhibit justice and mercy, we are compelled to submit.
A man is therefore obeying God when he opposes an unjust government policy or upholds a just one. Paul challenged the Roman authorities when it was apparent that an injustice was involved in Acts 22:24-25. Ultimately we must fight for freedoms accorded us for the sake of our fellow Christians as well. We are not our own, and we are our brothers' keepers. By "sticking up for OUR rights" we stand for other's rights as well. These are rights accorded to every citizen of the U.S. We thus restrain evil, accomplishing Kingdom purposes and seek justice as we do it. Government's purpose is to preserve God's justice on Earth.
Human government is a temporal picture of God's eternal Kingdom. For the Lord is our judge (judicial), the Lord is our lawgiver (legislative), the Lord is our King(executive); He will save us- Isaiah 33:22.
What does the Lord require? To do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. A simple word study on the biblical word sedeq (JUSTICE) will show the character of God and the argument that can follow from that is that we who are being conformed to His image and have His word written on our innermost parts will have a passion for preserving justice in this world. Freedom to worship God is an essential element of this, accorded to us as a legitimate right that can be fought for.
Carl F. H. Henry wrote,
"If while evangelizing we abandon the sociopolitical realm to its own devices, we shall fortify the misimpression that the public order falls wholly outside the command and will of God, that Christianity deals with private concerns only; and we shall conceal the fact that government exists by God's will as His servant for the sake of justice and order." (Twilight of a Great Civilization, p. 20.)
By abandoning the rights accorded to us by the government God authorized in our country, we ultimately fail to honor our telos of glorifying God.
It is important to distinguish the fact that a Constitutional
democracy is a representative republic and differs from a true
democracy where rule is directly linked to majority rule. Sadly,
many Supreme Court justices do not get the difference.This is
On the other hand, I do not know that I want to see Christians obtain too much power. Power is a corrupting influence and it just might be our ruination. We are at our best when we operate from a position of servanthood.