Friday, July 07, 2006

No Spiritual Switzerland

Doug Wilson has a great essay (rather lengthy) from which I drew this section. I commend the entire essay to you to read (here's the direct link), but just this short section applies to the overall mission of my blog, to be serious about our faith. As you read through the latter parts of this quote, ask how the information applies first to the Evangelical Culture in which we partake, and then to yourself personally. The answer is convicting to me, that's for sure! The next question, though, is what to do about that conviction. Part of the EC is to acknowledge a convicting sermon, and even feel bad for a while...but then shrug it off and not actually change.

And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad (Matt. 12:25-30).

Jesus is speaking in the first place about the kingdoms of God and Satan respectively. He had been accused of fighting Satan even though His accusers said He was on Satan’s side. Jesus responds by saying that a house divided cannot stand, and so Satan would not be so foolish (vv.25-26). Jesus goes on to say if His power over Beelzebub was a demonic power, then what power was being used by His adversaries’ children (v. 27)? But if Jesus is empowered by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God really had come to them (v. 28). And, continuing the argument, if the kingdom of God has come, why should anyone be surprised that the strong man’s house was being pillaged? The strong man was bound, wasn’t he? And then Jesus says what we all need to hear—one who is not with Christ is against Christ. One who does not gather with Christ is attempting to scatter (v. 30).

The claims of Christ are therefore total. There is no way to read through the New Testament and miss this. The claims of Christ are total. He is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, and over any creature that can be named. Christ is King. Jesus is Lord. This is the basic Christian confession (Rom. 10:9-10). And here, if you are not with Him, you are therefore against Him. There is no spiritual equivalent of Switzerland. In the cosmic war between in light and darkness, there are no neutral parties, and there is no third way. There are only two activities in every realm of human existence, and those two activities are obedient gathering and disobedient scattering. Only two.

Obviously, for modern and momentary man, these total claims on the part of Christ just won’t do. We need to have our personal space. We need to protect our favorite forms of autonomy. But at the same time, those of us who are religious, particularly in the Christian Lite Community of Faith, need to give some sort of lip service to the language of totality that comes up so often in Scripture. We should want to bring every thought captive, the apostle Paul says (2 Cor. 10: 5). Obviously, we have to figure out a way to use this kind of total language while ensuring that it remains partial in effect. God calls this sort of thing by the name of hypocrisy.

But we have developed various intellectual tricks for doing this, and we may describe these tricks as forms of American individualism, gnosticism, constitutionalism, or rationalism. A man can pick one of the following, or mix up his own combinations. Disobedience is protean and can take many forms.

Individualism: in this view, Jesus is Lord of my heart, and not that which is outside the realm of my heart. This is not thought of as partialism because the heart is what counts, right? But Jesus is Lord of your toes as well as your heart, and your world as well as your heart.

Gnosticism: in this perspective, Jesus is Lord of all spiritual things, not thought of as the Lord over foreign policy, sewage disposal, botany, law, and weed control. But Jesus is Lord of both heaven and earth, and every manifestation of culture.

Constitutionalism: this excuse points to the non-establishment clause of the First Amendment, misunderstanding that amendment in a grotesque fashion. But even if the amendment said what its distorters claim, that just makes it laughable instead of being bad constitutional interpretation. Regardless of what we, Congress, or the Supreme Court may think about it, Jesus is still the King of the United States.

Rationalism: this is the approach that appeals to natural law, but to a natural law that is sure to exclude the revelation of God in Christ. But natural law is fulfilled in Christ.

These evasions will not work. All culture is religious, and the only question to consider is whether it is faithfully religious or idolatrously religious. It has been said that all culture is religion externalized, but even this helpful insight can be interpreted in too weak a fashion. All culture is religion. Turning Henry Van Til’s insight around, we should say that all religion is culture internalized. So the question is not whether our culture has a god, but rather which god it has. The question is not whether we will impose morality, but rather which morality it will be. The question is not whether we will restrict blasphemy, but rather which blasphemy. And it is not whether we will embrace sexual politics, but rather which sexual politics it will be.

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