First of all I need to explain why I have failed to post anything on the previous three Thursdays. My computer went south on May 8. I didn’t get it back in working order until May 29. I’m sorry I was gone, but on the other hand I am grateful to be back.
This is part IV in a series in which I discuss ideas that the American Christian church could consider as possible ways to make the church more effective in the lives of both Christian and non-Christian people. I write as a professing Christian with a very optimistic view of what the church can accomplish.
19/Christians could consider that it might be a good idea to have small nations in which a distinctly Christian law order existed. This is a follow-up to point 18 about secession and about whether it is possible to have separation of church and state. Christians don’t seem to understand that there can never be a separation of religion and state. Humanists establish their own humanist view of what laws are good and which are evil. Christians could do the same. In fact I think God requires us to establish a law order which reflects His morality as demonstrated in the Bible. I don’t want to conquer the United States with the sword and establish a top-down Christian law order. I want Christians to understand that we should have our own countries–make them as small as you like, or smaller yet–where we can honor God with a civil law order that is distinctly Christian. This may sound radical, but it is not really anything other than common sense. Please at least start thinking about this. Due to intellectual laziness, and probably also due to the unwillingness to accept responsibility, we have been swallowing the humanist snake oil about church and state for a long time. We need small Christian countries with distinctive Christian law orders.
20/Christians could make a much more determined effort to get to know other people. This includes our fellow Christians, but it also includes non-Christians. We need to have non-Christians whom we begin to respect, pray for, and love in the agape sense. Agape love wants what is best for other people. What is best for anyone is that he becomes a Christian and begins to live in ways that honor God. If we know people we will see their strengths and their weaknesses. If we can respect, pray for, and love people, perhaps God will be able to use us (or, in answer to our prayers, use some other Christian) to help move a non-Christian toward becoming a Christian. We are too self-absorbed. We are saved by grace, right? Hence we ought to be willing to extend grace to other people by getting to know them, by respecting them, by loving them, by praying for them. God does the hard work, but we have our part to do also.
21/Christians could consider that perhaps the Bible teaches that there is no eternal torment for enemies of God. We believe in eternal torment, physical and psychological, largely because we have begun with that presupposition. But why? We need to believe what the Bible teaches. If we read the Bible with the willingness to let the Bible teach us rather than to begin with presuppositions that are wrong, the case for eternal torment begins to look very shaky. What the Bible seems to teach is that God may well annihilate his enemies, after the proper amount of punishment has been applied. Surely that is bad enough to suit any of us. To cease to exist is pretty strong punishment, and seems far more in accord with God’s character as revealed in the Bible than does the eternal torment line. To begin reading on the topic, please consider Edward Fudge’s book The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment. Available on the Internet is a useful essay by Samuel Dawson entitled “Jesus’ Teaching on Hell.” Or consider reading my book What Are God’s Goals? which is available both as paperback or in an inexpensive electronic version.
22/Christians could consider that there is no reason at all for us to assume that democracy is automatically good, and all other forms of government are automatically illegitimate. Winston Churchill, not claiming to be original, said “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” This is very clever, and we have believed it for a long time, but it is also inaccurate. Better forms of government are possible. A truly legitimate form of government is possible.
What is legitimate is civil government that honors God. Humanists pretend to believe in democracy, but when push comes to shove, what they really believe in is pushing and shoving–bossing other people around. What Christians should believe in is civil government that honors God, and thus protects ordinary people and leaves them alone. That is not necessarily and automatically going to happen in a democracy. Christians need to start thinking theoretically about these kind of things. As long as we refuse to think, the supposed believers in democracy are going to keep on shoving their “democratic” soft totalitarianism on us.
23/Christians could consider the possibility that we need to do a much better job helping our Christian brothers and sisters find out what are their specific gifts which they have been given by God. The Bible teaches that God gives each Christian at least one gift to be used for the building up of the church and the kingdom of God. See for example 1 Corinthians 12:1-31. Each Christian has been given at least one gift: “to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (v. 7) Something is “natural” to each believer–that is, naturally given by God, because God wants to build up His church. When we use our gifts, we help the church. But it is not always clear what our gifts are, and we don’t help each other find out what they are. Thus Christians have gifts which they never identify and as a result those gifts are not consciously employed for the benefit of others. This is a tragedy of world historical importance! I am convinced that if each Christian understood what his gift was, and made a conscious effort to put that gift to use, the church would grow in effectiveness, and we all would have a vastly increased sense of our usefulness to God, and a vastly improved peace of mind. We are drifting! The gift we have been given may not be spectacular, but it is needed. Often a person is given more than one gift. Year in and year out I remain astonished at how blind the church is to the untapped resources we have in all our members.
24/Christians could consider the possibility that we need to be aware that we have a responsibility to fight evil. We are war with evil–or rather, we should be at war with evil. We adults don’t understand this, and very clearly our children are getting the same incomplete message. They are at church because they have to be. They sit quietly and are praised for that, but they are totally clueless that we are at war. They are clueless because we adults are clueless. It doesn’t bode well for the future. No wonder our young people often desert the church when they get the chance. No wonder the church is thought of as feminine rather than as a place where men can be put to hard and difficult but worthwhile work.
25/The church could consider that something, somehow, is vastly wrong. I like all 24 of my preceding points. I think they are in the ballpark of being basically correct. In fact I really think they are 100% accurate. But assume for the sake of argument that I am just a grumpy old man, and all 24 of my recommendations are drivel. Okay, fine. So I’m confused. So I’m an idiot. But still, something must be wrong somewhere. 50% of the people in this country have a plausible connection to a Christian church. Moreover, 70% of the population self-identifies as Christian. We have the numbers. This is not Pakistan, where Christians are a tiny and persecuted minority. This is the United States of America, with strong Christian roots and a strong Christian contemporary presence. And all we have to do is look around us and we can see that our Christianity isn’t working very well. We are warmongers. We destroy people with the welfare state. We abort 61 million babies in 46 years. This is not happening because it has been forced upon us. It is happening because we Christians let it happen, or perhaps rather more accurately because we caused it to happen. Something is wrong with our brand of Christianity. Not sort of wrong here and there on a few minor points. No, something is vastly, humongously, horrifically wrong somehow or other. So while I may be a confused idiot, how do we explain a nation that has gone so wildly wrong unless we begin to look at the type of Christian faith which we believe in and which we live out in our daily lives. Something is vastly wrong.