Archive for November 2013

The Arminian Default–Unless You Say No

November 26, 2013

Arminians want to say—you are accepted, accept your acceptance, but what if you don’t, well that’s on you (if we must say it out loud for some stubborn people) but in any case, even if we say that the no is on you, we must still be careful to not say that the “yes is on you” because that would shed too much light on the con-game being played by Arminians.

It’s God yes, not your yes, but if you say no, well that’s you. But if you don’t say no, that means you say yes, but that yes is not yours, your yes is God’s doing in you. So it was yes, by default, you were born justified, but then you lost it by your no. But of course, only in one sense, you never lost it, because God will still be saying yes to you, even as you perish in the second death. As CS Lewis told us, hell is only locked by you on the inside.

Even infralapsarian Calvinists start at the other end. By default, we all begin as condemned sinners, and then election saves some. I myself think that infralapsarian Reformed theologians flatten out Romans 9 so as to make it seem reasonable and non-objectionable, but even they do read the default as we all being lost sinners.

But the Arminian default seems to run the other way–God is saying yes to everybody, and you will be justified, unless you say no. Your no will stop God from getting what God’s wanted but your no will be an excuse (theodicy) to explain why it’s still not God’s fault because at least you all started with a “common” justification. You had your “chance”.

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The Imputation of Adam’s First Sin as Our Guilt

November 26, 2013

https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/justification-is-not-eternal/

https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/were-you-born-justified-and-then-later-saved-2/

https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/questions-for-the-never-not-justified-preachers/

https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2016/07/28/then-and-now/

https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/the-i-was-never-lost-doctrine-of-stanley-c-phillips/

The imputation of Adam’s guilt to us is not based on anything that is in us, but is something legally applied to us by God from the outside and not based on any sinful thought or action on our part. Not all Reformed are agreed on this. Calvin himself followed Augustine in putting the emphasis on inherited corruption as foundational. But I myself would stand with the “federal theology” of John Murray, Hodge, Turretin, which talks about “original sin” in terms of legal representation. (as for contemporaries, both Mike Horton and John Piper speak of legal representation from Adam, but there are “realists” who are more in the tradition of Jonathan Edwards and Shedd–people like Schreiner and Blocher)

This imputation from Adam to humans, is about the legal transfer of the guilt of Adam’s one action, his first sin. The guilt of Adam is “external” to Adam–it’s the value, the demerit of his action, as judged by God, and that guilt is transferred to every human (Christ, the God human, the second Adam, excepted). This guilt is not simply the liability or punishment for sin, but is the sin itself.

That which is transferred from Adam to us is first of all EXTERNAL.

1. When Christ “bears sins” or is “made sin”, this does NOT mean that Christ himself ever became corrupt. Christ had no need of regeneration, which is why Romans 6 is not about regeneration, not about water, but about legal placing into the death of Christ. Why was the legal death of Christ necessary—because of the guilt of the Adam imputed to Christ, this guilt demanded his death, and his death demanded the remission of this guilt. Justice has been done, and those in Christ legally must have their guilt forgiven. This is good news indeed!

2. The guilt of the elect imputed by God to Christ is not the same as the guilt of Adam imputed by God to all humans, but the nature of the imputation of guilt is the same in both cases. We must teach an external (judicial) imputation. The more basic solution is not a regeneration of our insides (though that is necessary for other reasons, so that we believe), because the most basic problem we have is that apart from the cross (the death of Christ) God counts everyone’s sins against them.

3. Emphasis on the external is very important when we consider II Corinthians 5:21. I won’t extend the discussion here to talk about who died with Christ (5:14-15) or to whom the appeal to be reconciled is made (II Cor 6;1), but I will point out that “become the righteousness of God in Christ” is about having an external righteousness imputed to us. Because that is so, the “made sin” of the first part of the verse must be seen as about external guilt being imputed to Christ.

In other words, if the first part (made sin) is about some “inner corruption”, then 1. that says that Christ needed to be born again. God forbid! but 2. it would say that our righteousness is something found in us, or something in our faith, or something in Christ in us, or something indwelling. When the gospel is first of all about LOOKING OUT to Christ outside us, to Christ external to us. To become the righteousness of God in Christ is to be imputed with Christ’s righteousness, the external “merits” of the obedience of Christ for the elect.

This is not denying that the “in us” or the “new birth” is important, but it’s saying that those miracles are a result of the legal imputation of the EXTERNAL. Romans 8: 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,

A Lutheran tells me— one must not attribute to the Lutherans the Calvinist idea that God imputes Adam’s sin to us, for we are all responsible for our actions that do not derive from full fear, love, and trust in God

mark: I am hoping that not all Lutherans would agree with this, because it seems to be an outright rejection of any notion of “original sin”. If we are only responsible for our own sins, then what is left of original sin? If we find the imputation of Adam’s sin not just, why should we find the imputation of Christ’s finished work to be acceptable? If we can’t be condemned for Adam’s sake alone , how could we be justified for Christ’s sake alone?

Most people in our day do reject both imputations. Certainly the “new perspective on Paul” does. But it seems that many others reject it as well. Are Lutherans saying that the only effect in our life from Adam’s sin is death and being a sinner? Are they rejecting any idea that we are sinners because of Adam’s guilt? If you deny that you can be legally judged because of Adam’s sin, must you not also deny that you can be legally justified because of Christ’s righteous death?

What is the Gospel in John 3:16?

November 22, 2013

Tolerant Reformed: you say that “The gospel is ‘Jesus died for the sins of those who believe.’” It seems like your formulations are a hybrid of gospel and decree.

mark: Except for the part about “for the sins”, I was simply reading John 3:16. It’s not “my formulation”. John 3:16 does not say that God gave His Son for every sinner. John 3:16 says that God gave His son for the world. Yes, there is an Arminian formulation of “world” which assumes that it means “every sinner”. Is your formulation a hybryd of the Arminian view with something else?

Now, I don’t doubt that you can quote some famous “Reformed” people who agree that “world” means “every sinner” (although I would disagree that Spurgeon and DA Carson are “Reformed”) And I could quote many Reformed who say that “world” in John (not only this one verse) means those who will believe and who will not perish.

But my main point is that it’s not fair for you to call what I said “my formulation”. I didn’t use the “desire” word. You did. That’s your “formulation”. With Calvin, I would argue that God obtains what God desires. God desired and desires that those who won’t perish not perish. So they won’t. God gave His Son as the necessary (and sufficient, it’s enough without additional factors, it causes the means, the other factors) decisive reason that these persons will not perish.

So if you want to argue for the Arminian reading of “world”, put out your own formulation, but don’t pose the question as if I am saying something that other Reformed people don’t say, and as if the “obvious natural reading” has something to say about God loving those who perish or God desiring that those who perish not perish.

God commands all sinners to believe the gospel. But the gospel is not that God loves all sinners. If you think that the gospel must be that in order for God to command all sinners to believe the gospel, then make that argument. All of this is me asking you: what is the gospel? Do sinners have to believe the gospel? Or does God save sinners even when they don’t know or believe the gospel? And is not the “as many as who believe” (compare the original text, but I don’t mind if you say “whosoever”) what we find in John 3:16?

I am not importing “the believers” into the John 3:16 text. Are you importing “and also for those who never believe” into the text?

Tolerant Reformed: But the gospel invitation goes out freely, and hearers are invited to Christ.

mark: And what did I say that denied that? It comes back to “what is the gospel”. Are you agreeing with the Arminians that the gospel has to say that God wants to save everybody before we can preach it to everybody? if so, you will find your theology in that section of Dordt in which the antithesis of the gospel is explained and condemned. Again, not my formulation.

Tolerant Reformed: I don’t recall the preaching in Acts being a proclamation of an atonement theory.

mark: I don’t know why people want to rush to Acts when they can’t first argue for their assumptions about John 3:16. Is the conclusion here that there is no “atonement theory” in the gospel? Again, what is the gospel? Is the Gospel simply that Jesus is God, and risen Lord? Are you assuming a Kantian distinction between fact and theory (value, meaning) in which there is atonement in the gospel but not “atonement theory”?

Are you sure that the apostle Paul who wrote Romans 3-6 did not talk about the atonement in Acts? Are you assuming that the apostle Peter who wrote about the atonement in his letters did not talk about the atonement in Acts? Are you some kind of dispensationalist who thinks there are different gospels even in the New Testament? Or, are you saying that the basic simple gospel (all you need to know) is the one you think is in Acts, which has the “fundamentals” without any discussion of the nature (intent, effect, justice) of the atonement?

Tolerant Reformed: Definite atonement and election are comforting truths but how about “come unto me you weak and heavy laden,” and “Christ died for sinners”?

mark: First, I don’t believe you. You don’t find those truths comforting. or you would not be so uncomfortable with them. If you thought they were good news, then you would not want to restrict the preaching of those truths to conferences and seminars and R.C. Sproul on video Sunday School classes. You would invite all sinners to believe in the good news of election. So I don’t think you are being completely honest with yourself when you stipulate they are comforting.

Second, you are pulling two phrases out of context. Unless you are playing a “shell-game’ with lost people, why put stuff into the fine print (strings attached)? When you yourself are comforted by the idea that “died for sinners” really means ‘died for some sinners, died for elect sinners, died for those sinners who believe the gospel”, and the comfort is not in the idea that some are non-elect but in the fact that this means that the death really accomplishes something, that the death means that they will believe, if you are truly comforted by this, why leave it out of the gospel, when the effect of leaving it out means that lose people will simply go on saying, so what? Sure, Jesus died for everybody, and everybody in america knows that, and I don’t deny it, but what does it matter unless I am a good person and go to church?

Third, I did not even use the “elect” word. I merely wrote “for those sinners who believe”. Is that not what John 3:16 says? Not one less than those who believe. Not one more than those who believe. So where’s the problem? Do you have a “formulation” which insists that ‘world” means “everybody gets a chance” and “nobody is condemned for original sin, or even for any sin, except this one sin of not accepting it”. If that’s not your gospel, why would you object to what I said? Why would you put your “desire and decree” formulation on it.

Context

Matthew 11: 25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

John 6: 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast
out.

Acts 2:39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

As many of you as God calls are elect. As many of your children as God calls are elect. As many of all who are far off as God calls are elect. Not more, not less. Would you not agree that this call is not the external command and invitation of the gospel, but the effectual call which comes only to the elect for whom Christ died?

But this promise about election and calling is something that Peter preaches to everybody in the first “sermon” in the book of Acts.

Lutherans Have an Eternal Life that They Can Lose

November 21, 2013

A Lutheran: Some people really do have eternal life before they lose it. I guess I have never doubted this, and it has always been something I have had some concern about— making shipwreck of my faith, not just being “faithless” but disowning him.

mark: So when you say “eternal” life, you are thinking in some qualitative way, not of a life that necessarily continues forever? It seems to me that there is a distinction to be made between now having “eternal life” and that time on the last day when God will raise up the justified elect and give them immortality. But isn’t “eternal life” now the verdict declared already of “immortality in the age to come”? Isn’t it the verdict that a person will not come into the judgment?

John 5:2 4 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

And so the Reformed question: how can a person who has passed from death to life, then pass back to life? What is the practical difference between accusing the Reformed of not knowing if they have life (or if they now believe) and a Lutheran saying: I know I believe now, but that does not mean I will keep believing. I know I have eternal life now, but it might not be eternal forever, it might not be life forever.

1. I don’t see how Lutherans have escaped the Reformed problem–how can you really know that you even really believe now? You go to church? Well, Reformed people do that also. 2. It’s the old Cromwell question. Supposedly he relied on a syllogism on his death bed–if I believed once, then I cannot lose my justification, and I know that I believed once, therefore….

But there are problems with that
1. He’s believing in his belief. He’s looking at himself believing, not at Christ.

2. So Lutherans think the solution is to get our eyes off of themselves, off of the question if they are believing, and think to do this by telling everybody that they all are justified, before believing.

3. But it does not work for more than a moment, because Lutherans (at least those who are not universalists) also say that they can’t be sure that they themselves (previously justified) will keep believing and will keep the “eternal life” they once had.

4. So they have come around to the same place as the Reformed–—are you believing now? And you can’t prove it with your living, since that attempt is not believing.

5. So what was the difference? It was the gospel, the object being believed. The Reformed say, you are not justified apart from believing, not justified before believing. (And I agree with this, even as I insist that God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness is before new birth and faith.) But the Lutherans tell us— believe that you are justified, instead of believing to be justified.

I am not making this complicated. The differences are more complicated than I have shown. For one thing, the word “justification” is being used in more than one way. For a second thing, Lutherans seem to agree that we need to keep believing in order to stay justified.

But, even in this case, in the tomorrow and the day after that, the object of faith is not the same gospel. “Believing that you are justified” is not the gospel. The gospel is not the Velveteen Rabbit, in which what we believe makes something real. Reality does not disappear because you don’t believe in it. If we are justified before faith in the gospel , then ignorance of the gospel and absence of faith in the gsopel does not make justification disappear.

So if we want to avoid Barthianism or universalism, if we agree that those who do not believe the gospel are not justified, then we had better stop telling people that they are justified before they believe the gospel. And we certainly should stop telling people that they have passed from death to life, if we need to also tell them they can now pass from life to death.

But if we run away from Lutheran “objectivity”, do we end up in a Jonathan Edwards place where he says that God’s justification is conditioned on “future grace” (future acts of faith created by God in us)? I hope not. I certainly know that many Reformed persons are now in this place––they hate “eternal security” more than any Lutheran does. They put perseverance first every time over God’s preservation because they despise the idea of “once justified, always justified.”.

I don’t know enough about Lutherans to know the differences (except between no wrath ones like Forde, vs conservatives). But I do know that not all Reformed are alike. Not all Reformed rely on a practical syllogism which is looking at the I who is believing, and saying, well that’s God also, since it’s God the Spirit working in the I. No, not all Reformed are like that.

Lutherans can’t solve their assurance problems by saying that Jesus even died for those who perish And Reformed people can’t solve their assurance problems by saying that water is a “seal” about justification being conditioned on faith. Those who have that kind of water are in no better place than others without the water but are hearing the gospel.

The question still comes down to–—what is the gospel? Do we look at a verse in Acts and say, all you need to say is “Jesus is Lord” and nothing else should or needs to be said, even if you think that a person is saved by doing what the Lord tells you to do? But the gospel does not make faith a condition of election, because the gospel tells us that faith is a result of election.

And that gospel does not tell you or anyone that they are elect. That gospel tells us that “all for whom Jesus died will be justified.” If you don’t like definite particular effectual atonement, you don’t like the gospel. And if you don’t like the gospel, then you might want to say it’s a gnostic idea that almost nobody knows or believes.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Why Two Way Love Is Not the Grace of the Gospel

November 16, 2013

William Blake

If Moral Virtue was Christianity
Christ’s Pretensions were all Vanity

In The God of Promise and the Life of Faith: Understanding the Heart of the Bible (Paperback) footnote 6 on p244, Scott Hafemann writes: ” The position I am advocating is based on a reassessment of the traditional Lutheran, Calvinistic and dispensational view of the relationship between the Law and the Gospel. The traditional view saw a conflict between the two, with the law viewed narrowly as God’s demand for sinless obedience as the ground of our salvation, while the gospel called for faith In God’s grace in Christ, who kept the Law perfectly in our place.”

Hafemann does not understand correctly the antithesis he is opposing. Yes, the law is the divine demand for perfection (and also for satisfaction for sins). But he is wrong to focus on a demand for perfection being replaced by a demand for faith. The only accptable “end of the law” is not faith but the righteousness obtained and imputed by God. .

Hafemann is inattentive to three facts about the divine alien righteousness. First, Christ died under the curse of God’s law only for the elect alone. Second, faith has as its object not just any Jesus or any “grace”, but the Jesus who satisfied the law for all who will be justified (and not for the non-elect). Third, this faith is not only a sovereign gift but a righteous gift, given on behalf of Christ and His law-work (Philippians 1:29; John 17).

When Hafemann makes the difference to be between a demand for faith and a demand for obedience, the only thing left to discuss Is the nature of faith. Does faith include love and works or not? If faith loves and works and faith is an instrument, why can’t love and works of faith also be instruments? Since faith is a result of regeneration, won’t that faith include works?

Of course Hafemann does discuss the object of faith. His theme is that the law/gospel antithesis is wrong to put all the emphasis on the past. He denies that the past work of Christ is sufficient or the only object of faith. He insists that we look also to the life of Christ in us, and to the future work of Christ in us.

To his credit, Hafemann openly acknowledges his differences with Luther and Calvin’s law/grace antithesis. He thinks his different gospel is more biblical.

I think we would all see the difference between the two gospels if we stopped explaining the antithesis by talking only about “faith alone”.

The real point of the law-gospel antithesis is not “conflict”. It is non-identity. The law is not the gospel. The gospel is not the law. The gospel, however, is about the satisfaction of God’s law for God’s elect.

Though law and gospel are not the same thing, they are not opposed because they never claim to have the same function. Law says what God demands. Gospel says how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect. The law never offered life off probation;y one sin would put you under its curse, no matter how many acts of obedience to the law you had.

Hafemann thinks that the antithesis understands “Christ to bring the law to an end in the sense of abolishment”. But the antithesis does NOT understand Romans 10:4 only in terms of redemptive-historical abrogation. The “end of the law” is Christ completing all that the law demanded, so that there is no remainder left for the Spirit enabled Christian to do. Romans 10:4 is also first about redemptive-historical fulfillment.

The gospel says DONE. The gospel does not say “to be done by the life of Christ in the elect”.

Hafemann reduces the law/gospel antithesis to the abolishment of strict law, and says that what the Spirit does in us helps satisfy the law enough. This misses what the gospel says about Christ’s complete satisfaction of the law for the elect.

Christians sin, and therefore their “fulfillment of the law” (see for example, Romans 13) cannot ever satisfy the law. But the law will not go unsatisfied.

Back to footnote 6 on page 244: “In this view, the law itself taught a legalism that Adam and Israel failed to keep but that God continues to demand in order to drive us to the gospel”. Hafemann does not define this “legalism”.

Is “legalism” a demand for perfection? If God demands perfection, is God therefore a “legalist”? It seems to me that the only alternative to a demand for perfection is either no law at all or a “new” softened-down demand which calls only for imperfect righteousness so that “grace” makes up the difference.

Hafemann is simply following the direction of the Torrances who reject the “contract God” who demands perfection and operates by justice. The Barthians put “grace” and not justice into the pre-fall situation of Adam.

There are some who think that even talking about law’s demand for perfection is “legalism”. But God has told us that the law is not the gospel and that it never was the gospel. Romans 11:5–”So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is not on the basis of works; otherwise grace would not be grace.”

It is Hafemann who is the legalist, because he identifies law and gospel, and then reduces the demand to including what the Spirit does in the elect. What God does in us (by grace) is necessary for a different reason than the satisfaction of God`s law. What God does in us keeps us believing the gospel, but our believing the gospel is not what satisfies the law.

Read carefully what Hafemann writes about the “obedience of faith” (p 188): “Still others consider obedience to God’s law to be the necessary evidence of faith. For them, if one believes, then obedience becomes the mandatory sign of something else, namely faith, which is the human response to God’s grace that actually saves us. Faith must lead to obedience as a sign that it is real.”

While that it is an accurate description of many Calvinists who talk about assurance, it is not biblical assurance. We do not work to get assurance. We must have assurance before our works are acceptable to God. We must be saints before we can offer proper thanks and worship to God. We must make our calling and election sure before we take the first step of obedience in which God can delight.

Through faith in Christ we are sanctified by the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:10-14), even before we do good works. Because they do not understand the distinction between Christ’s obedience for us alone for sanctification and our works after we are saints, most folks continue to seek a way to build Spirit-wrought obedience into acts that will help sanctify them

The Spirit works faith in the hearts of saints through the preaching of the gospel even after they are saints. Continuing faith is not a condition but a result of sanctification. Saints are commanded to continue to have faith but this faith is still never a work. It’s an anti-work because it has no inherent goodness or holiness. Faith itself is nothing in sanctification. Only Christ and His finished work counts in sanctification.

We Don’t Care About Your Motives, Just So You are Against Sin, Secularism and Obama?

November 11, 2013

William Blake

The Moral Virtues in Great Fear

Formed the Cross & Nails & Spear

And the Accuser Standing By

Cried out Crucify Crucify

If Moral Virtue was Christianity

Christ’s Pretensions were all Vanity

Conservative “Christians” tend to be identified with a prescribed set of practices rather than with ideas and doctrines about what God did in Christ.

Hearing the gospel is not about how much we make ourselves do or how much we can make ourselves believe. Faith is the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ causing us to look to Jesus Christ so what we depend on what Jesus Christ already did by His death and resurrection so that we do not depend on what we believe that Jesus Christ is doing in us and in our church.

Grace is not for the nice people who are living right. Grace is not what causes us to live right. None of us lives right yet. Grace is not useful the way parents and politicians want it to be. Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus Christ has already done enough so that we don’t have to con ourselves into believing that God has to “show up” every Sunday in the presence of authorized clergy?

For freedom Christ has made us free. We don’t have to have Jesus “warm up our hearts” in our daily quiet time. Romans 6 even says we don’t even have to sin to get more grace. Romans 5—we stand in grace. What are we going to do, now that we know that our doing is not what causes God to bless us?

But surely there’s got to be more to life than “merely” that, doesn’t there? More than “only” not having our sins imputed to us? At the end of the day, I say, NOT SO MUCH. Who in our day cares about not having sins credited to them? Who cares about that? Can’t we now get over that basic fact, and get on with it, and concern ourselves now with moral progress? Our sins are not counted against us. Do you hear that anymore? Who in our age now is so selfish and individualistic to still care about if their sins are counted against them? I Am.

But isn’t it dangerous for God to not count our sins against us? Maybe it’s so, maybe it’s not. Maybe there’s a not yet aspect of our justification in which God’s work in us by the Holy Spirit will be brought in as an additional factor, so that we can now still have various different motives, including the beauty of threats and the loss of assurance, and whatever else that works to get us on the move… NO NO NO.

But wouldn’t it be better now, in the present fight against secularism and liberalism, to not “rock the boat” about grace, and accept the “tension” between grace motives and other motives? So what if some works are not done from a clean conscience but done in order to keep the conscience clean, why rock the boat just because grace happens to work for you? Can’t we get along with people who operate out of different motives?
And the accusers appeal to us, if you really believe in grace, they tell us, you should get alone with the rest of us, with other doctrines, with other motives. Some Christians, they tell us, are

Many today warn us–yes, grace and gratitude is one complex of motives, but don’t forget to balance that with other motives

Do we address the people in church as if they have been believing some form of the gospel all along? “Close as in horseshoes”? Or do we say—some or all of you may need to be reconciled. Nobody is born reconciled. Let’s not presume. Let’s not beg the question.

Jerry Bridges, p 34, Transforming Grace—“if you are trusting TO ANY DEGREE in your own morality, or if you believe that God will somehow recognize any of your good works as a reason for your salvation, you need to seriously consider if you are truly a Christian.”

No Thanks, You were not Serving Jesus, Nor was Your Service for Me

November 10, 2013

Why would it matter if the President is a “real” Christian? Since the law says there’s to be no religious test for office, why is it important for us strangers to be deciding about a politician’s religion? Is the USA “exceptional” because its leaders have been or were “Christians”?

If you “support the troops”, does this mean that you advocate that people become soldiers? Does it mean that you think that Christians should kill other people for Christ and His glory? Does it mean that you support the civil liberty to become soldiers, if that’s what people decide, even though you don’t agree with the decision? Does it mean that you think it’s one way for poor people to go, but not the best for your children?

Would you fault the “moral compromise” of the Lord Jesus for His submission to the occupying empire and its allies on the Sanhedrin? Is Christ’s rejection of Peter’s sword an endorsement of the evil done by the Romans, or do you think that the Roman administration of Roman laws was basically good for business and civilization?

Acts 2:23 Jesus…crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

We should never confuse what’s “necessary” (because it’s predestined by God) with what is good or practical or legitimate. I can agree that nation-states do great evil, without in any way seeing any duty or mandate or vocation for us to attempt to replace or reform these regimes. “Submit” does NOT mean “do the evil they command”. But neither does “submit” mean “I accept suffering from them because I think they are good and legitimate”. By what standard would we make this judgment? By the standard of the Mosaic covenant? By the command of the Noahic covenant that blood that takes must be taken as a sacrifice to God? Which God? By the standard of what your “natural instincts” tell you to do?

Patience, even such that we wait for the Lord Jesus to come and judge, is not always necessarily cowardice, and most definitely it’s not approval of that which is evil. To do nothing when nothing wise can be done is to avoid the evils which come when we attempt to overcome evil with evil.

We cannot dismiss Christ’s command to love our enemies with the idea–”if it were only me suffering that’s one thing, but it’s not only me suffering, so therefore I am one of the gods who must do something about it.”

I Peter 2:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”
8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

mark: God’s foreordination is not God’s approval. God’s purpose in Christ involves His second advent, and apocalypse will uncover the evils done in the name of the good.

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

mark: What some speak of as the “spirituality of the church”, I think of as the “politics of the church”. The words “ecclesia” and “politics” do not belong only to those willing to do violence. God’s purpose in Christ is manifest when Christians obey Christ’s commands together.

There is something very “religious” about “supporting the troops” of an evil empire, and there is something very “political” about knowing that your church is more important than your family or your race or your national boundaries.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the
day of visitation.

mark: Unless we adopt a situation ethic (now we have the illusion of democracy!), since when do aliens tell the nation in which they live how to conduct their affairs??? Agreed, you surely are not going to listen to what Jesus Christ said, but we like our plan B better than your plan B???

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the
ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants[ of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.

mark: On this matter of unjust suffering, the idea is not to restrict the suffering to something “private” or something which is “religious persecution”. Rather, the imperative depends on the example of what the Lord Jesus Himself did in a situation where his people were threatened by an evil occupying power. The text does not say to move to Jerusalem and be a carpenter and not have a wife. But the text does say that Christ is our pattern in suffering, also that we do this by “trusting Him who judges justly”.

19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we, having died to sin, live to righteousness.