The relationship between Church, Christians and State


(Thomas Hext) #1

[Mod note: This topic was split out from here: What form of government do you prefer?]

Hello Ken, I enjoyed reading your reply (who doesn’t love hearing what they already think coming from someone else?)

I have a question for you based on this part of your response;

In the context of 1 Peter 2:13-14 how is a government official elected from a society that is flushing it’s moral inheritance able to discern righteous behaviour from evil and praise/punish accurately?

Not everyone reads Scripture and those that do are prone to misreading it. There is a law written on the heart accessible to all but that can also be misread/seared.


What form of government do you prefer?
(Joseph Bayly) #2

Big picture I think the answer to your question is that the more a culture rejects these truths the sooner it falls apart. Survival of the fittest applied to cultures, essentially.


(Ken Lamb) #3

Hi @Thomas , thanks for the encouragement and inquiry. As I’ve stated elsewhere I’m not a church officer, nor have I studied at the seminary level. However, I think I’m on safe ground saying that those versus which command submission to authority are not a proclamation of the moral rightness of every command of those authorities.

So for instance, Daniel submitted to the Babylonian authorities, and recognized that it was God’s will to be under that rule. But this does not mean that every time a Babylonian wields the sword that it is to punish evil, only that this is the standard by which a faithful servant of the lord must obey. If it were true that all kingly authority came with the moral verdict of innocence then Nebuchadnezzar would never have to repent and bow to God, and would have never needed to call his own people to bow to the LORD.

Repeatedly in scripture, God places his people under the rule of wicked people. The authority of rule does not change the moral stature of those ruling. In fact, God promises to poor out his wrath on wicked rules despite sovereignly using them to chasten His people.

Lastly, to view the position of authority as having absolute moral authority, would be to place God’s own direct revelation of His actual moral will under the worldly authority; and we are called to have No Other Gods before Him.

So I don’t know if this answers your question, but if I understand what ou are asking, magistrates will be held accountable for their wicked rule, and those of us under a wicked rule are being chastened by God. This does not mean that we can call evil good. But it means that we are being called to repentance. But if we find ourselves as magistrates, then wow to us if we do not do what is right in the sight of the LORD.

P.s.
as for how do unbelievers know real wickedness, like Daniel, we must instruct our kings/magistrates in the ways of the Lord.


(Thomas Hext) #4

Good stuff.

Daniel obeyed the authorities until it contradicted God’s commands. He didn’t bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol when commanded to nor did he stop praying to God during Darius’ reign.

I suppose believers need to know where the line is between submission to authorities and fidelity to the real moral order when they clash.


(Thomas Hext) #5

For sure. I was listening to one of Mohler’s Thinking in Public podcasts where he chats with an Australian politician who speaks of “a cut flower society” that quickly withers after being severed from its source.


(Ken Lamb) #6

In my work place at least, for the number of times their names came up, Daniel and his friends would have almost immediately been labeled trouble makers. Go along to get along is not the lesson de jour. It was God’s divine sovereignty that he used their faithfulness to demonstrate his power to a wicked ruler and a wicked nation and cause them to repent, eventually.

I think sometimes, people misread Daniel and use it to teach that we are all supposed to submit and obey, when the command does not violate God’s law, but even that is overly simplistic. I mean how often to we expect the pagans to actually obey God’s law?

Consider when Jesus says render unto Cesar what is Cesar’s and unto God what is God’s. We often take this to mean somethings belong to Cesar that doesn’t belong to God. This statement is actually a question with a veiled answer and the hearer must make a decision. I mean did Cesar make the fish, and did he cause it to vomit up a denarius in the presence of the rulers? What exactly doesn’t belong to God?

But back to obeying…How many times do we violate God’s law, even when we love what God loves and hate what God hates, as believers. So how often will our lives go up against ungodly rulers who most certainly love what He hates? If we are seeking to please the Lord, I would expect quite a bit. Basically, we are to be innocent, not malleable doormats for our wicked rulers. There’s a tension for sure.


(Stephen Baker ) #7

I think the answer lies in the Church’s duty to disciple the nations:

Matthew 28:18–20
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

That discipleship is usually a long process. We need to faithfully obey Christ’s commission, knowing that the leaven spreads slowly and joyfully suffering in the mean time. But we need to suffer with hope as we actually do the work of teaching the nations to obey all that God has commanded. We modern American Christians have totally neglected that for generations, now.

We also need to obey the Apostle Paul’s command:

1 Timothy 2:1–2
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

In the context, I believe our prayer for the magistrates must focus on their salvation (verses 3–4: “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”). As they come to repent of their sins and know the Lord, they will be able to understand true justice and righteousness and apply it in the civil sphere (as Romans 13 requires), just like a newly-converted father begins to apply it in his home. Slow work, to be sure, but God promises to bring good fruit.


(Thomas Hext) #8

I quite agree with the following caveat; go along to get along isn’t the message (I don’t think) of 1 Peter 2:18-20 where submission to authority, even a badly behaving one, is related to Christ’s suffering.

Are there instances where showing respect to an authority figure actually glorifies God even when that authority is being abused/misapplied etc?

In the same vein I think of a wife submitting to her husband “as to the Lord.” He (we) won’t do his job well all the time as much as he tries to, yet she is called to submit to her husband’s authority.

Thanks for the back and forth! Really fun.


(Joel Norris) #9

I think it is important to keep in mind that one big change that happened in very recent times compared to the rest of history is that authority in most of our societal institutions is no longer personally exercised. Let us not think that Daniel had to adhere to some gigantic Babylonian Policies and Procedures Manual as he carried out his duties. Rather, he could carry out his tasks as he saw fit while receiving unquestioned obedience from his subordinates. One also sees this world in the Westminster Catechism. But it is not the world that we live in. Personal authority carried out in personal relationships is heavily circumscribed by bureaucratic procedure in our world, and we are instead burdened by impersonal authority over us and through us. The prevalence of the Policies and Procedures Manual, I think, makes it more difficult for Christians to live in a righteous manner.


(Ken Lamb) #10

Agreed, I enjoy the back and forth as well. Thanks for the opportunity.

Absolutely, the disrespect, disdain and dishonor many Christians show to this current President is perfect example of how Daniel didn’t behave under a wicked leadership. Again, we are to be as innocent as doves and as wise and serpents.

We can plead, and maybe at times our personal faithfulness can become inconvenient to the public image of that leader, but trying to force them, or seeking to make them look bad or showing public disrespect is not worthy of our faith.

I think about Moses pleading with Pharoh. He wasn’t there to say that he was an illegitimate Pharoh or berate and call him names. Instead he warned him, and plead that the Lord would do as He had promised. Moses was no Che Guevara, and yet in the end the Lord caused the Egyptian to invite their own pilfering by the people of YHWH.


What form of government do you prefer?
(Lucas Weeks) #11

This is very important in understanding the quagmire we are in currently. We now govern by formulas and “data”, and not by wisdom.

This provides cover in two ways: for cowards to hide behind the rulebook, and for wicked rulers who know how to manipulate through the rulebook.


(Thomas Hext) #12

Amen. Isn’t it a problem that some bible bashers like us are social justice types, some are more libertarian and still others are nationalist (in the Yoram Hazony sense, not the tiki torch people sense).


(Joseph Bayly) #13

Not really, because there are a lot of ways that disciplining the nations happens. The real problem is those who explicitly say that the church should not be involved in such work—the R2K error.


(Thomas Hext) #14

R2k, now these are the “worship at home and church” only people are they not? No public involvement of any kind, just watch it burn.


(Joseph Bayly) #15

Yes. Kind of like those who say the Bible’s commands to men and women only apply in the church and home. In both cases they would say, “Well, when you go out into the world, of course you are still a Christian (or man, or woman), and you continue to act accordingly.” But they can’t seem to find any particular way to “act accordingly” that is actually required.

Edited to add: Here’s a good link to intro series about R2K (Radical Two Kingdom):
http://baylyblog.com/blog/2013/04/theological-critique-escondido-two-kingdoms-theology-i-they-adore-separation-church-and?icn=rel-posts


(Thomas Hext) #16

I think I need to read this whole series.


(Thomas Hext) #17

I’ve read them, they’re currently digesting.

In one of these posts T Bayly combats the idea that a sodomy law is no different than a law demanding people pray a certain way/ attend Clearnote/ other particular religious requirements. It is a false dichotomy smokescreen.

I can’t remember in which of the posts it is written or I’d quote it for the sake of accuracy

An old friend of mine ( who hated the gospel ) once challenged me in a similar fashion. He informed me of my options, either I celebrated LGBBQ etc or I was shoulder to shoulder with Westboro.


(Ken Lamb) #18

And some of those same people will argue that cultural Marxist Social Justice is a Christian obligation. It’s enough to make your head spin.


(Thomas Hext) #19

Yep, he was neck deep in intersectionality and the rest.


(Tim Bayly) #20

You poor guy. Drink some baking soda. Love,