No comments yet

Christ’s Place in the World

As most good, well-educated Americans, you probably have heard of the doctrine of “Separation of Church and State”, or as the Apostle of Democracy, Thomas Jefferson, originally worded it, “The Great Wall Of… Separation”. This doctrine dictates that the Church should be separate from the State. I know. A little on the nose, those founders where. It is one of the few edicts coming from the government whose name is actually indicative of its objective. Not at all like the “Workforce Commission” whose purpose it is to administer UNemployment; or the euphemistically named “Department of Defense”, whose responsibility it is to attack other countries. Of course, even they know they are stretching the fabric of reality, so they have caught the spirit of the United States Postal Service (otherwise known as USPS) and now call themselves the D.O.D. The Postal Service abbreviated their name because “Going Postal” has an unfortunate connotation that they would prefer not associate with, and Truth in Advertising laws require them to not mislead the public with claims of “Service”. And there is always the happy chance that people will see USPS but read UPS, and not run away screaming.

But what is the good, well-indoctrinated Christian supposed to think about the separation of Church and State? On one level it makes a good deal of sense. If one lives in a State that is majority Islam, then a poitical doctrine and legal framework that prevents Islam from implementing Sharia law would be great. In that situation, the Christian would probably want to see that Great Wall be much Greater. But in a scenario where the nation is majority Christian, and Atheists use the Separation doctrine to ban prayer and Bibles from schools, the 10 commandments from courthouses, Genesis from science classes, and the word ‘God’ from everything publicly visible, it might not seem like such a wonderful idea after all. 

Admittedly, there are all sorts of nuances and fine details that I am glossing over, partly because I don’t know them, but mostly because I think that the construction of the argument is specious; at least as far as true Christians are concerned. I don’t have an issue with excluding Genesis from the science classroom. In fact, I approve. I no more want Genesis to be used as the basis of the study of natural processes than you want the flying, spinning wheels of Ezequiel to be the basis of the aeronautics of the plane you board; or Paul’s Lord’s Supper Pandemic diagnosis to be the basis of your next visit to the oncologist; or David’s description of conception to be the textbook of your OBGyn. To not put too fine a point on it, but when your mechanic diagnoses a misfire in the third cylinder of your Toyota Corolla, you don’t ask him to jot down Book, Chapter, and Verse. You accept that while the Scriptures speak to all of life, they do not speak to every element of life. 

As Paul’s diagnosis of the Corinthians bout of illness and death in 1 Corinthians 11.29, 30 illustrates, there can be a natural explanation for an illness simultaneous with a supernatural explanation. One does not negate the other. But if you were to go to a doctor because you were very sick and all he prescribed to you was to take Communion more seriously you would probably have the same reaction as if you went to your Pastor and he pulled out a stethoscope and a scalpel. Since the Corintians had actual physical ailments, such as death, then it stands to reason that had they visited a physician, he would have diagnosed a physical cause for their condition. That does not negate the spiritual cause that Paul pinpoints. It is not an “Either, Or” proposition. 

I submit to you that much of the social and mental disorder in our world today is a consequence of attempting to solve these types of problems with only one of the two approaches. On the one hand are the extreme charismatics who believe that all sickness is solely a spiritual reality, and that to even consult with a medical professional only exacerbates the faithlessness at the root of all illness and misfortune. On the other hand are the extreme naturalists who reject the possibility of any spiritual comorbidities, and believe — how ironic that they cannot hardly get away from the language of faith — and believe that nothing beyond nature exists and that any explanation that pertains to a spiritual dimension is fatuous. I think we need doctors for our bodies, engineers for our bridges, and pastors for our souls. Great harm is caused by pastors playing Doctor at church and naturalists playing Moralist in the world. 

It would be very detrimental to make the Bible the textbook for biology. (Or geography, or physics, or chemistry.) And not just detrimental for biology, but for the Bible as well. It denigrates the Scriptures to press them to speak to that localized discipline. It would be like taking Paul’s illustration of “the child differing in nothing from a servant” as a key to godly child rearing. I think Paul would give us a blank stare and say, “Really? That’s what you got out of that? I am afraid to see what you will do with Hebrews 12.9.” Interestingly, everyone agrees with what I am saying, at least in principle, because there is always someone who takes it one step farther than you and I are willing to go, and then they are obviously kooks. But, as I said, this is detrimental to science. That is because science is the search for natural causes. True science does not oppose any supernatural answers or causes, but it also doesn’t concern itself with those. However, the moment that science accepts the supernatural explanation, it has reached the end of its quest. It can go no further. So, for example, science might try to explain how babies develop in the womb. But the Bible already tells us how that happens: According to Job, God does it. He clothes us with skin and flesh, and fences us in with bones and sinews. And then Solomon shuts the door on the matter saying, “we don’t know how the bones do grow in the womb of the woman that is pregnant”. So to summarize Biblical obstetrics: God does it and we don’t know how. I think I can say confidently that most of us do not want our Obstetrician to attend that medical school. If the choice is between that and a godless naturalist consumed with knowing “how”, nine out of ten will have no trouble choosing. (Obviously that is not the choice. That is known as the false dilemma; the aforementioned “Either, Or” fallacy.) 

So, what does the Bible say about pregnancy? It teaches us that ultimately God claims all credit for life and every aspect of it. That it is not merely an indirect product of his design, but that he is intimately and personally involved in the formation of every human being, and that the life they have is directly from him. This is not metaphorical or allegorical. But it is also not a natural or “scientific” explanation as to how babies are conceived, how they develop, and how they breach the birth canal. It doesn’t attempt to be. That would be crass, and the Scriptures are never crass. We don’t need the Bible to explain birth control, conception, pregnancy, and Lamaze. You wouldn’t call up Lord Kelvin and ask him the ideal temperature to bake an apple pie. I am not impugning God with ignorance. I am praising his depth and gravitas. 

For some this conversation is traumatic. It might appear to them that I am slyly suggesting that the Bible is unreliable or out of date. I assure you that what I am saying is exactly the opposite of that. And not only am I saying the opposite, but those that disagree with what I am saying are the ones actually responsible for artificially relegating the Bible to a caricature. If a pastor told you that to fix your car’s electronic ignition system, all you needed was the Bible, and after trying and failing, would you blame the mechanic (who was able to fix the car) for diminishing the Scriptures, or the pastor? It is astounding that those who most revolt at this point, and wish to establish the Scriptures as the source of all knowledge; they are the ones who are actually denigrating the Scriptures by disregarding the issues it does speak to. That is to say, they trample the spiritual reality that the Bible explains in painstaking detail in order to promote a hairbrained connection to some natural phenomena. They think that is honoring the Scriptures. It is not. Any semi-proficient egg-head can opine on natural phenomena; only the Scriptures speak to transcendental spiritual Truth. The question isn’t if God can explain geology. The question is why would He? And, Why would you want him to? Isn’t that a little bit like wanting God to miraculously dull the point of your pencil? Or soften your uncooked rice? Or shorten your grass? Can he? Sure. But then what are you going to do? But really it is far more insidious than wanting God to dull the point of your pencil. God wants to interact with you and your pencil, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the wood, graphite, or eraser. He wants to fill you with his Spirit and speak through you. But if you are looking to him as a deluxe pencil duller, then you are diminishing both Him and yourself. 

The typical Christian fear is that science is going to contradict the Scriptures and cause a crisis of faith. And that is an understandable concern. It is a major reason that Christianity has relinquished its role in the intellectual arena. This is too often true with fundamentalists. They have a pervasive tendency to view learning through a strong lens of suspicion. And not just the natural sciences. Even Biblical academia is viewed warily, for fear that it also has been contaminated with faithless scholasticism. You could say that they agree with the Scriptures when it says that “much learning makes people mad.” However, there are a couple of points that we should consider before falling prey to such fear. 

First we should acknowledge that our understanding of the Bible can be mistaken and that doesn’t reflect on the veracity of the Scriptures. And the possibility that our understanding is mistaken increases correspondingly and exponentially as we apply the Scripture beyond its intended scope. Think of how wrong a neurosurgeon might be in his opinions the further he gets from his field of expertise. At some point between neurons and lug nuts he is going to be talking through his hat. 

Second, the fear that science will explain away the need for God is a deflection of the real fear: That we have stunningly misunderstood not only the text of the Scripture but the message of Scripture. This is not unprecedented. At one time Christians were convinced of the geocentric model of the solar system, because the Bible said so. When astronomers began to prove that model was incorrect, it was perceived as an attack on the Scriptures themselves. But does the Bible really have anything to say about the physical relationship of the earth with the sun or its motion in the universe? Hardly. The problem was not with science nor with the Bible. The problem was those who substituted the spiritual truth of Scripture with pseudoscience. 

Third, if we were hearing the message of God in the Scriptures, we would not be concerned with what the natural sciences were saying. Not because we ignore them, but because they are speaking in a different dimension. This is not a matter of looking over our shoulder to see where natural science is and then steering Biblical understanding in that direction. Nor is it to ignore natural science and fabricate an alternate Biblio-scientific theory. Nor is it to spiritualize everything in the Scriptures that science sneers at. But it also isn’t stubbornly trying to ram Biblical “fact” down science’s throat. It is crucial that we appreciate the genre of the Scriptures for what it is, and that we make allowance for scientific discovery within that understanding. 

What does that mean? It is anachronistic to think of the Bible as “history” or “science” or “archeology” or “anthropology” or “medicine” or any other modern discipline. That is not to say that it is inferior; that is the gross arrogance of modernity. In recent times, humanity has become very concerned with determining the exact sequence, the natural process, and the absolute timing of past events. This concern has greatly benefited all of us insofar as we are part of the natural order. However, the result is that time itself has become the object of inquiry and human events and interactions are nothing more than plotted points on the timeline. But the Bible has a very different focus. The object of the Bible is the eternal (outside of time) God and his actions and interactions with the immortal souls of mankind. Time is a mostly incidental sideshow that unreliably intersects that spiritual reality. Attempting to contextualize eternity and Divinity and even humanity within time results in chaos. 

One might ask if the events recorded in the Bible didn’t, in fact, take place in time. And of course they did. Then it should be simple and straightforward to affix their exact place in time. Not necessarily. Consider this simple example: Imagine a man coming home from work and his wife surprising him with the news that she is pregnant. When did he become a father? Upon conception? When the wife saw the pregnancy test results? When he got the news? Or when the baby is actually born? Or some other time? Surely it is simple to plot this on an absolute timeline. What if the story is told from the point of view of God? When does the man of our example become a father from the perspective of eternity? Consider a concrete example: When did God create the animals? Before man as in Genesis 1 or after man as in Genesis 2? This discrepancy is monumental from a modern historiological worldview, but it is inconsequential from a theological worldview in which the purpose and prerogative of God is the “timeline” — calling those things that are not as though they are. Or consider the example of the death of John the Baptist. When did it happen, historically? We don’t know. All the Gospel records of it are flashbacks, because John’s death was consequential as it related to Jesus Christ, not especially consequential in itself. But from the spiritual perspective it happened where the Gospels place it, not because they were reordering time, but because cosmic time barely stands on the periphery of spiritual reality.

But I digress. As I stated at the start, I think that the concept of separation of Church and State is a faulty construction, or perhaps I should say a spurious interpretation. The way it is being sold today is not the way it was envisioned by the Founders. They did not intend for the government to prescribe a religious belief to the individual nor to regulate their religious practice, or lack of it. But they very much intended for the government to be informed by the collective religious morality of the people. Another feature of original constitutionalism is that the majority is not to be allowed to prescribe to the minority what they must believe or how they must worship. But that was not intended to be used by the minority to forbid how the majority is allowed to worship in public. The majority do not have the power to force the minority, and the minority doesn’t have the right to impinge on the freedom of the majority. But what is happening is that atheists have taken the right to not be forced to be religious and are attempting to convert that into the power to not see religion anywhere. 

When Christians hear this, many are given to trepidation about a possible future where Islam is the majority religion in their country, and in that scenario, an ironsided secularism seems to be our best defense from Sharia law. And so, moved by their liberal sense of fair play and sanctimonious consistency, they hamstring their own God-given human right to incorporate the elements of Christian worship into all spheres of endeavor: Private, public, and official. However, this is only fair and consistent if the underlying assumption is true. The underlying assumption that there is a moral equivalency between Christianity and non-Christianity. But that assumption is not true. Christianity is a superior religion that produces a superior culture, a superior society, and a superior form of government. I realize the outcry this statement draws from the militant non-Christian and self-anointed tolerant Christians. However, consider this: Do naturalists accept a scientific equivalency between Darwinism and non-Darwinism? Between Creationism and Evolution? Are they both equally acceptable to be taught in science class? What’s the difference between that scientific equivalency and the aforementioned moral equivalency? 

Non-Christians assert that religion, and by extension Christianity, cannot speak to the scientific. Fair enough. But how can science speak to morality then? Naturalists have bent themselves into hairpins trying to conjure from actual nothingness a moral landscape based on science, and they haven’t even been able to convince their own fellows. There is as little (actually much less) morality in science as there is science in the Bible. Science attempts to tell us what ‘is’. But a seemingly insurmountable philosophical truth is the impossibility of extracting an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. That is to say, observing and documenting the way things are in nature tells us nothing of how they ought to be, and even more to the point, how we ought to behave. The latest attempt to bridge the ‘ought/is’ gap is the argument that “Morality is the effort by conscious creatures to maximize well-being”. With ‘well-being’ defined as “all that conscious creatures can intelligibly value.” This logical bridge between ‘ought’ and ‘is’ has huge, gaping, fatal flaws. Even if we grant an initial condition of a perfect world, the logic cannot even support the weight of its own hubris, much less the enormous burden of alchemising what ‘is’ into what ‘ought’ to be.

For the sake of argument let’s propose a perfect world, full of perfect people. Now let’s fill that world with clear and perfectly understood natural laws, and a perfect consensus among every person as to what those natural laws are. We now have the perfect ‘is’. From that ‘inertial frame of reference’, what is well-being, concretely?  Is it maximum pleasure? Is it maximum productivity? Is it maximum efficiency? Is it maximum effectiveness? Are we valuing the immediate or the future? What quantity of immediate well-being is it moral to sacrifice in order to secure future well-being? Or visa-versa? If any amount of well-being — past, present, or future — is sacrificed, isn’t that immoral by definition? And if morality is more accurately seeking the maximum average well-being, how is that average calculated accurately? And those are only a few of the superficial problems in a perfect world. 

If we imagine an imperfect world, the moral landscape quickly morphs into an immoral, God-forsaken wilderness. Consider the part of the qualification that morality is for conscious beings who can value intelligibly. This then applies only to most humans and some animals. Not plants, not most animals, and not many humans who because of age, birth defects or tragic circumstances do not have use of their faculties. So morality does not apply to the most vulnerable. In fact, the stronger one is, the more moral one can be and the more that morality applies to him. This is why even many committed Darwinists oppose Darwinism being taught as a basis for morality. Nature is naturally immoral; especially Darwinian nature and natural morality. What does a newborn infant value? Air, food and sleep, and very little else. So is morality to provide that infant all it values, and nothing more? Or is morality to provide the infant all it might value in the future? Or is it morality to provide the infant what we value now? And how are any of those values calculated? And if we are to provide more than the infant can reasonably value at the moment, how does that logic not apply to everything else — like plants, insects, and rocks — that cannot value things? I suggest that this slippery slope is precisely the path that has led to contemporary anthropomorphism — treating relationships with animals and plants and nature as if they were as important, meaningful, and fulfilling as those with human beings. On one side of that coin you have the wicked who dehumanize themselves by abusing animals, but on the other side are those that dehumanize themselves by elevating animals to the level of human beings. But with a natural moral compass, it is logically impossible not to fall off the razor’s edge into one of those two extremes. 

But that doesn’t even address the most salient difficulty with natural morality in a flawed world, or in other words, in the real world: What is our moral obligation in a situation where someone else has destroyed themselves morally? Is it moral or immoral to pursue their ultimate well-being even if it necessarily requires us to sacrifice our own? Does natural morality allow for selflessness? What if it requires the sacrifice of many for the sake of that one self-debauched individual? What if it requires the sacrifice of one very great person for the sake of that one evil individual? It seems that the logic of natural morality condemns all selflessness and glorifies only selfishness. And in this point we discover that modern natural morality is nothing new. Paul dismantled it long ago in his epistle to the Romans and contrasted it with Divine morality that all men should reach towards.

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5.6-8

Notice the natural moral philosophy and its contrast with Divine morality: Naturally, no one should sacrifice themselves for another if the tradeoff is a zero sum or less. But, for a trade where the net sum is somewhat greater than zero, a one for one trade is tolerable (i.e., scarcely for a righteous man will one die). However, for a trade where the net sum is exponential, a many for one trade is acceptable (i.e., peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die). In contrast, Christ (the ALL and IN ALL and BY WHOM ALL) died for a humanity that by its own self-debauched volition amount to less than dust on the scale. According to natural morality, Christ is the most wicked person in all of history. But according to God’s morality, Christ is the most righteous in all of eternity. The question is, which morality resonates as true? Which morality actually works in the real world? 

Because of this, and many other similar reasonings, I have no qualms stating unequivocally that Christianity is superior. There is no moral equivalency between Christianity and non-Christianity. And therefore we do not need to affect fairness. The doctrine of Christ should be taught everywhere. The symbols of Christ should be emblazoned on everything. And everything should be brought under the submission of Jesus, not only in the world to come but in this world as well.

God raised Christ from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Ephesians 1.20-23

A common trope among premillennialists is that this world and its institutions are Satan’s, while the world to come belongs to Jesus. This is absolutely false. The place of Christ is not in the everafter. It is in the here and now. It is in the church, in the government, in the school, in the everywhere, and in the all-the-time. And it is the job and joy of the Church to subject this world to this dominion of Lord Jesus.

We cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

1 Corinthians 10.5

The church did not grow from a tiny mustard seed in Palestine to be a mighty tree, towering over the whole world, because the disciples of Jesus tiptoed around the separation of Church and State. They were instant in season and out of season, because Jesus is Lord in season and out of season. He is Lord of the dead and of the living. He is Lord of this world, the world to come, and the world that then was. 

This does not mean that we need to elect Christians into government office. That is exactly the wrong way to respond to what I am saying. That is to make the weapons of our warfare carnal. We should vote according to our values, but Christians in office isn’t even close to the solution. We need politicians in office who will be principled in resolve and pragmatic in practice. We need those children of this world who are in their generation wiser than the children of light. That isn’t to say that a Christian couldn’t be governor or President, but it is to say that they probably cannot be good politicians. And even if they could, the power of the gospel does not come from political maneuverings nor is it an extension of political power. The power of the gospel is born in a manger, raised on the backside of a desert, let down the side of fortress walls in a basket, drug out of the city and stoned, beaten and locked in stocks in the bottom of a dungeon, scourged and hanged on a cross without the camp. That is the power of the gospel that brings the whole world to the dominion of Lord Jesus. Christians could be completely banned from voting, canceled from culture, silenced in the academy, and it wouldn’t make any difference to the power of God. The power of God is resurrecting death to life and calling those things that are not as though they were. And Christians tap into the power when they die with Christ daily, so that they might likewise live with Christ in the power of an everlasting life. 

I do not want to separate Church from State, I want to subjugate the State, the Culture, the Society, the Family, the Government, the Economy, and the World Order to the everlasting Kingdom of the Son of God, declared Lord of all with power; and that every knee would bow, both those in heaven and those on earth.

Post a comment