Monday, August 23, 2021

Why being "apolitical" does not help in Christian discipleship

Christianity as a religion focuses on spiritual things. Christianity is also a worldview that seeks to explain all of life. After all, if the God who created the world and ordered it is the same God who redeems sinners from sin, then it follows logically that all of life and the things in this world must be present in the scheme of God. To relegate Christianity to the private realm, unconcerned with the things of this world, is a denial that God is the God of creation.

That said, Jesus' kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 18:36). The primary focus of Christians should be on the things of God. Thus, while God is the God of creation, our emphasis should be on God as the God of redemption. Herein lies the tension for Christians in this age: On the one hand, we worship the God who is Creator and King. On the other hand, our focus is on God as our redeemer and the one who mandates that in this period of the Gospel Christians ought to be focused on proclaiming the Gospel of salvation from sin. Both are true, and both cannot be denied. Those that focus on the Gospel alone while ignoring creation are inbalanced in their faith, just like those who do not focus on the primacy of the Gospel due to concern over creation. How then should Christians live in this world?

The tension between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of creation, and between the City of God and the City of Man, has occupied pastors and theologians since the beginning of the church. A recent view attributed to Reformed theologian David VanDrunen, the "Two Kingdoms" view, state that God is ruler over both the kingdom of creation and the kingdom of the church, but He does so separately. One implication of this view is that the Church in her assembly ought to be focused on spiritual things and not the things of this world. Activism of all sorts are to be proscribed by the church in her gathering, a corrective to both right-wing and left-wing activism found within American Evangelicalism. In this general sense, the Two Kingdoms view is biblical. Complications arise however when we look at the specifics.

Recently, Baptist theologian Owen Strachan wrote a tweet stating that pastors ought to teach their congregants how to understand the world, and that failure to do so is a failure in Christian discipleship as the sheep will look elsewhere for guidance on these matters. Strachan of course is thinking in terms of social issues like Critical Race Theory, in light of the shocking abandonment of biblical orthodoxy by former YRR (Young, Restless, Reformed) adherents for the mirage of "social justice." Many Evangelical Christians in turn turn to conservative political analysts and Fox News for their catechesis on socio-political issues. It seems clear that many people in the church learn about society and politics not through the lens of Scripture, but through partisan lenses. Now, if one believes that there is such a thing as a Christian worldview, then this fact should be seen as problematic.

In response to this tweet, Brian Onstead has reminded us that pastors are not political pundits. That of course is true, but I am unsure the relevance that has to the original tweet. The focus in on Christian worldview, and the shocking abandonment of the Reformed faith by many New Calvinists for "social justice" shows that they had lacked a biblical worldview. Somehow "Gospel-centered" has devolved into "Gospel-only," and it seems that they learn their sociology and politics from the culture rather than the Scriptures. On the right, the reaction to the Left has reached fever pitch, and it is not helpful to be trained by them in one's worldview, even though they are correct on many matters. Are these not evidenct that the Church ought to disciple her members in the Christian worldview, instead of allowing the culture to teach us about such matters? After all, Strachan is not asking for political activism or guidance from the pulpit, but Christian instruction on such matters.

It is of coure true that there is a category called "wisdom" as one deals with the things of the world. But as opposed to this ivory-tower theologian, it is a fact that calling for wisdom is insufficient to actually ajudicate on a practical level between a biblical theory and an unbiblical theory. This author has seen first-hand how a pastor can agree with biblical doctrines on many things but consistently promotes left-wing social issues as being merely concerned with "social justice," while simultaneously claiming to be apolitical and not interested in doing politics. What is going on here, you might ask? What is happening is that left-wing views have so permeated society that they became seen as the "default" view; it is considered being moderate and "not political" to hold to that particular left-wing view. In other words, the Overton window has shifted so much leftwards that anyone who has not thought through the issues are by default politically left.

In exegesis, "tradition" is the idea that nobody comes to the Bible "just as they are." We all come with preconceived notions and lenses through which we read our Bibles. The one who is uncritical about that and who claims no tradition is often the one so bound by tradition that he is blind to it. Likewise, the one who does not recognize that they have a default inchoate "sociopolitical theory" are the ones that are most blind to their own political biases. That is why Strachan's call for biblical discipleship in this area resonates with me, not because Christians ought to be political or to be partisan, but because most Christians are not taught how to think through these matters from a biblical perspective. Wisdom is of course necessary, but calling for wisdom without showing how wisdom is seen is like the man who knows he needs food but is unable to recognize food from poison.

It is of course correct to desire to be apolitical, since the kingdom of grace is not of this world. But desiring to be apolitical is not the same as BEING apolitical. Ironically, one has to be educated on socio-political issues from a Christian worldview in order to be apolitical. Just as knowing one's tradition helps one to better interpret the Bible from a more objective standpoint, likewise knowing the Christian worldview on political matters helps one to be properly apolitical. Without such education, one can call for all the "wisdom" one desires, but there is no escaping the forces that have swallowed up people like Christina Edmonson, Jemar Tisby, and the others who have fallen away from biblical Christianity.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The social liberalism of David French

David French, once a conservative, has shifted ever leftward. That is less of an issue if the leftward movement was on issues that Scripture does not explicitly address. However, in his attack piece on the "new right" over their "embrace" of Hungary, he took positions contrary to Scripture, and thus showed that he has shifted towards being more theologically liberal. Hungary of course is not immune to criticism, and this piece should not be construed to taking any position on Hungary. The focus here rather is on French and the values he shows in his attack piece.

The key passaage from French's attack piece lies here:

The regime doesn’t recognize gay marriage. Only heterosexual couples may adopt. And the regime just passed a law sharply limiting any promotion of homosexuality or gender transition to children. He has banned gender studies programs at Hungarian universities

Besides the banning of gender studies programs (a conntroversial issue), all the other policies would be uncontroversial in America in the 1990s. Notice how French thinks that all these are normal for what he holds to be his "conservative" viewpoint. Nevermind that all these are considered abominations by Scripture; evidently having biblical morality is considered to be merely engaged in the "culture wars" which of course is reprehensible. So French evidently thinks that having biblical morality is part of the "new right" and to partake of the taint of authoritarianism.

This is of course part of the problem with the so-called "culture wars." The Overton Window has shifted so much that what was considered normal and acceptable in social discourse is now considered to be part of the "far-right" or "new right" or whatever nonsense the real culture warriors of the left have come up with. French's liberalism is as much a fact as well as a sad indictment over the state of spirituality in America. In any society where biblical morality is taken as a norm, French would be considered a left liberal for his abandonment of biblical morality, and treated as such by society.

Book Review: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Part 4): Neanderthals and Harari's misinterpretation of Scripture

Here is Part 4 of my review of Yuvah Noah Harari's book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Once again, we look at Harari's views, this time concerning human evolution as it regards the Neanderthals. As we go deeper towards the main problem with Harari's narratives, I took a short detour and deal with Harari's misinterpretation of Scripture. Harari, being a non-Christian, is of course free to reject Christianity. He is not however free to misinterpret Scripture to say what he wants it to say.

The key point here is that Harari is not quite the vaunted historian or scholar others paint him out to be. A good historian will not make elementary errors on the history of science. A good scholar will not make elementary errors in the interpretation of the Christian Scriptures. We will continue further in further installments of the review.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Book Review: Sapiens - A Brief History of Humankind (Part 3): History of Primeval human development - Preliminary Concerns

Primeval human history is an interesting topic, intersting particularly as it is a topic with a comparative paucity of evidence. In Part 3 of the review, I note some preliminary concerns I have on Yuvah Noah Harari's take on primeval human history, which can be read here.