The Core Problem Is Not Political But Theological!
If you are a Christian, let me invite you today to stand up for three solas of the Reformation: solus Christus, sola scriptura, and sola fide.
By emphasizing these solas, I would remind you that the controversies within American public life today are first and foremost a theological problem, not a political problem. Thus, by this understanding, the church of Jesus Christ has a theological, not a political, task. In other words, anyone who confesses Jesus Christ as the one Word of God has set a clear, unmistakable, and unambiguous limit to the divine aspirations of the state, its supporters, and its ideas.
What we are witnessing in our society is this fact: other lords than Jesus Christ, other commands than His commands, are gaining power over us. They are offering themselves to us as redeemers, but they are proving to be the torturers of an unredeemed world. I would remind you that, according to Scripture, the church does not face the state in silence. By reminding the state of God’s Kingdom, God’s commandments, and God’s righteousness, the church reminds it of its limits and at the same time tells the state what it simply cannot tell itself.
The church reminds the state that there are certain criteria for its actions that it cannot set for itself but are set by God’s Word. To these criteria, rulers and ruled are subjected, and to these they are responsible—whether they are prepared to acknowledge this or not. The church understands that it cannot itself act politically. Its task is to remind. It reminds the state that not only is the state necessary but that its monopoly of power is not absolute, but instrumental—to seek justice and peace.
In the church’s struggle against binding the Word of God to any ideologies, a new ideology has crept in through the back door, namely the ideology of expediency. I am “amazed” (Gal 1:6) at how easily the church has lost its prophetic voice of ensuring that the state fulfills its God-given function as state. The “true” church always has a responsibility to ensure that there is a “true” state. Indeed, having allegiance to Christ alone, the church is freed from the political intrigue that so often characterizes the functions of other groups within the civic community.
According to the New Testament, the state, as one of the angelic powers, is understood to be under the constant threat of demonization—the temptation to make itself absolute. When, therefore, the state takes on theonomous pretensions, it does so only through its presumption of autonomy, which itself it based on its renunciation of its true dignity and authority given and confirmed through submission to God. Thus the greatest service the church can render the state is to ensure that it never perverts its authority. The church is always to hold before the state an ideal of what it can and should be.
This understanding of church-state relationships is one that gives to the church enormous responsibilities with regard to the state. It demands an uncompromising “No” to the Promethean efforts of a state that has lost its true dignity by presumptuously feigning autonomous authority, as seen, for example, in the recent Supreme Court decision on sodomy or in the president’s decision to launch the nation into war in defiance of the law of the land, the U.S. Constitution.
If the church is to be true to its calling in American society today, it must resist humanity’s trust in its own resources—yes, adamantly oppose it!— for when linked to the self-aggrandizement of Kulturchristentum, such hubris can only lead to one thing, and that is disaster.
My friends, will you please consider this question: Shall the church keep silent, or will it fulfill its God-given role of “reminding”?
It is for you and me to decide whether we will stand up and be counted. If there is no true state today, it is because there is no true church.
July 22, 2003
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.