**Warning: this post will most certainly contain things you will initially disagree with, but please read until the end (under 1500 words) before making any judgement or comment.**
To start off with, everyone knows that the NIV was corrupted by people seeking to erase the uniqueness and divinity of Jesus Christ in order to facility the merging of all religions into one which will be promulgated by the coming new world order. The NIV ‘translators’ (so-called) knowingly, and intentionally “removed 64,576 words as compared to the King James Bible!” as is stated on this website. http://www.jesusisprecious.org/bible/satanic_bible_versions.htm.
Also, we begin by accepting the reality that the KJV is the perfection of God’s word, furthermore that it is the only truly Authorized version, and that the Holy Spirit was at work in history to preserve God’s inerrant word through the work of these faithful translators to provide God’s own exact words in English once and for all in 1611. This is all in spite of the claims of unbelievers that over 100,000 changes have been made to the KJV over time. Those deceivers know full well that the vast majority of those so-called ‘changes’ were just an updating of the spelling of words from things like ‘shewn' to ‘shown’ and so do not really contain any substantive changes at all!
If you have not been exposed to any of these preceding arguments before, you may have had any number of reactions ranging from shock and disbelief, to frustration, or even to your head actually exploding. If you have cherished and grown up with the KJV all your life, I would be very surprised if you have not heard at least some of those arguments, and probably many more like them.
The problem is that practically all of those arguments about the KJV alone being God’s word in English are based on mixture of logical errors, misinformation, and ignorance. As a result the conclusions of these arguments about both the KJV and the NIV (along with other modern versions) are totally false.
Those of you reading this sentence should know that many of those who support ‘KJV onlyism’ have already stopped reading after that last sentence. If, you, however are willing to critically examine the question of Bible translations, read on.
I’m going to try and list a few of the most pertinent facts concerning Bible translations. I say a few because this topic is vast enough for a several hundred page book, which if you are interested in one, let me suggest a few: How we Got the Bible by Neil R. Lightfoot, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? by scholar James White.
So, at the risk of oversimplifying the topic, here is a first round of Bible translation facts.
Now some facts concerning the Greek manuscripts from which we translate the New Testament.
Satan is called “the god of this world” and not for no reason (2 Corinthians 4:4). This world is his stronghold. Why? Because his kingdom rule is supported by human sinfulness. “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1-2). God reveals to us that Satan is actively working in those who are disobedient, and he is thus “the ruler of the kingdom of the air.”
But also, evil spiritual beings influence, encourage and even empower people to fight against the Kingdom of Heaven by affecting their minds, hearts and actions. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 points out that those who knowingly seek to deceive are active servants of Satan, following his example. Yes, evil spiritual beings influence people to fight against God’s people. So, the “Real battle” takes place in heavenly places but is played out in the minds, hearts and actions of mankind. If the spiritual battle were only in the angelic realm he would be annihilated, but since Satan is at work in a world where people can always choose rebellion against God, the battle continues as he is ever able to find strongholds among people who live in sin.
Ephesians 6 says that THIS is our battlefield. This is the place where hearts, minds and souls are won to eternal life or lost to eternal death. The battle of Satan is waged against the trust of people in their creator. The point is that Satan is most concerned with destroying people eternally! He attacks those who love God and seek for Him in truth because he is trying to “steal, kill and destroy” by keeping people blinded and separated from their creator.
And as we have already noted, he does much of this work through human agency of those who either knowingly or unwittingly serve his destructive agenda. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4).
“How exactly,” we might well ask, “does satan “blind” the minds of unbelievers?” He will use any deception conceivable to prevent people from loving God. Paul talks about this battle of truth vs lies and deceptive arguments in 2 Cor 10:4-5. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
As I read Paul talk of demolishing these demonic power structures that appear as “arguments and pretensions” I see in my mind the prevailing zeitgeist which has been set up against the knowledge of God. Satan is not just throwing a bunch of disconnected, random attacks at Christians, but an entire demonic power structure he has established with help of those who are serving him.
In times of prosperity we have seen in the U.S. Satan using deceptions that present false idols as worthy of pursuit and devotion rather than God, whether they be: pride, pleasure, wealth, security, power, knowledge or any other thing. The prevailing attitude of our times is YOLO, and that has become so engrained in our culture that those who oppose it are laughed at and mocked.
Christians can only fight this battle by maintaining confidence in God’s word in Christ which is able to tear down these lies to speak to the heart of mankind’s true need. God’s truth is able to cut through satan’s smoke screen to unmask sin for the soul poison it is, and to reveal the way, the truth and the life that are found in Christ Jesus.
However, we must be prepared for other attacks Satan is likely to throw at us if we resist his front line of deception. When Christians resist mental attacks, he will resort to physical attacks. When Satan realized he could not throw Jesus off his mission, what was his last option? Kill him. Try to stop his mission by murdering him. In Acts 2, Peter reminds the crowd that it was “wicked men” who committed the injustice of killing Christ, and 1 Cor 2:8 Paul notes that had the spiritual forces of evil understood the wisdom of God, (that killing Christ was not a victory for satan, but a defeat) “None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. ” If Satan cannot get to us with his deception, he will resort to physical attacks. The book of Revelation too shows how Satan wages war by empowering worldly leaders to attack God’s people. He has done it over and over again throughout the course of history. “God allows His people some minor tactical defeats as part of His larger plan which is unbeatable” to paraphrase something John Piper has said.
Christians fight this battle by prayer, trust in God and obedience to His will.
Is the government out to get Christians? Whenever those with ruling authority live in sin, they are unwittingly servants of Satan whenever they engage in sinful acts, and we know Satan’s agenda is the eternal destruction of as many human souls as possible. So then, yes, any time a government commits sinful acts, it serves the purposes of “the god of this world.” However, the story doesn’t end there, and none of these things happen beyond the knowledge of God. The God of the universe has the final say, and He can work anything out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.
Will Christianity lose it’s ‘favored status’ and begin to be taxed or even persecuted one day in the U.S.? If Satan believes doing so would help him, he certainly will try to use physical force to intimidate people away from trust in God. If these things are true, how would we prepare now to respond to them? Should we stock up on guns and ammo to start up a revolution to restore system of government that respects God? No. We should look for how God Almighty is at work in spite of Satan’s schemes, follow God’s lead, and participate in His work. I will elaborate more on how God would have us respond to these things in my next post.
The truth is that ALL Christians—whether they live in a place where their vote counts or not— have a participative role in something much greater than any earthly government! Christians participate with Christ in a cosmic conflict against evil spiritual forces.
We participate primarily by engaging in Spiritual warfare.
Ephesians 2:6 states that, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” and chapter 1:18-23 explains just exactly where it is that Christ sits. “Far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church” (Ephesians 1:21-22). All those in Christ are currently sharing in the rule of Christ over the universe!
“Well, that is all nice and good,” you may say, “but government is about real world, not the spiritual one.” But not so fast there. The Bible teaches that the spirit world has a direct influence up the physical one, despite remaining unseen.
2 Kings 19:35 & Isaiah 37:36 record an event in which one angel kills 185,000 Assyrian soldiers from the army of Sennacarib, saving God’s people from certain destruction. How did a spiritual being, an angel, kill humans? We are not told. They just died. I’d be curious to see what an autopsy report showed about these guys, but that is not necessary. Could it have been with a plague or disease? Could it have been through heart failure? Doesn’t matter exactly what the physical ‘cause of death’ would have appeared to be, the actual cause of death was an angelic being. It is interesting to note that a ‘cause of death’ is a WHAT, not a why. The why is where God is involved.
In Daniel 10:7-9 we see another direct effect that an unseen angel has on people who were inexplicably affected by it. “7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.”
The people ran in fear just because of the angel’s presence, even though they couldn’t see it. And we have no indication from the text that any of these people knew what was causing this reaction in their physical bodies. The effect on Daniel himself is that he loses his strength, goes pail, and falls on his face. The point here is that spiritual beings can have a direct impact, in this case emotionally, on human beings.
The case of Daniel 10 is particularly engaging because the angel says he is coming in answer to Daniel’s prayers. Several places in the New Testament speak of angels being sent in response to our prayers. Hebrews 1:7 gives interesting insight telling us God sends angels for many varying reasons. “7 In speaking of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.’”
When we pray and ask God to act on behalf of His promises as 1 Tim. 2:1-2 and many other’s instruct, what should we expect in response? Such prayers invite spiritual war to take place.
Read Daniel 10:10-13. “10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.”
This angelic messenger unabashedly tells Daniel ‘I’ve come to give in answer to your prayer for understanding.’ This guy was sent from God to interfere in the world of men in response to Daniel’s prayers! But the angelic intervention does not go uncontested. God’s messenger was delayed by the “Prince of the kingdom of Persia” which means some kind of a spiritual being that is at work for evil in Persia. These forces were somehow battling for influence over the affairs of the Persian kingdom! This force of spiritual evil was able to stop the messenger for 21 days while they apparently were in conflict.
Just this peek into the spiritual war going on behind the political scene should show us how IMPORTANT it is to pray and ask God for the things He has told us to ask for, and not for physical comfort, and other junk! We read in Ephesians 6:11-12 that there are very real, evil spiritual forces which relentlessly oppose God’s people. Our engagement in this spiritual conflict is important in a number of ways that I’ll comment on next time.
Christians and Participative Government — Part 5 Social Issues & Individual Responsibility
Something we must always keep in mind is that while it is good and right to want the government to support righteous agendas, whenever they do, those do NOT absolve Christians from personal responsibility in those areas. We should not absolve ourselves from personal, or corporate church, responsibilities against sin issues in our times by relying on, or attempting to create government programs. Government programs should never be seen as the fulfillment of a Christian’s responsibility toward God’s Kingdom in that area.
For example, any kind of socialist, communist, or “welfare state” does not absolve Christians from personal responsibility toward helping those who are truly poor. In the same way, voting to make abortion illegal does not change the Christian’s mission to reach out to those who are seeking to kill their unborn children to begin with!
We cannot confuse governmental solutions with Kingdom solutions. Just because the government has a program for it, that does not mean we do our Christian duty in that area by merely supporting the government program.
In fact, government solutions are copy-cat imitations of what the church is called to! The goal of communist states is to provide every social care that Christians would so that they can tell people the lie that Christ’s message is irrelevant and unneeded for society! The lie is egregious since social programs almost always have the opposite of intended effect on the hearts of the people, whereas only the gospel has the power to change people from the inside out! Welfare makes beggars, prohibition of activity drives the desire deeper into sinful hearts rather than pulling it out by the roots (as was seen in the literal prohibition).
The gospel, however, offers palpable social solutions by solving the root cause of human selfishness, what the Bible calls “sin.”
The gospel changes the focus of a young woman to love others sacrificially, and so she turns away from the abortion clinic out of love for the child whether or not abortion is permitted in society. The gospel changes the promiscuity of young men by teaching him to let God’s Spirit reign over his body instead of his carnal desires for sex.
The gospel provides a more healthy balance to the wealth inequality of a society by eliminating the limitless greed which so often runs in the top percent of the capitalistic machine, and replacing it with generosity and goodwill where those in need are cared for by this with abundance and by demanding a fair wage be paid in which one can live. The gospel also eliminates the astonishing greed of society at large by challenging all to be content.
The gospel eliminates the welfare poverty state by instilling a desire to “work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord,” (Col 3:23) and so instills deeply within the character of people a pride in working for a living rather than just leeching off of others.
The gospel breaks the shackles of generational abuse by healing those who live in shame and strengthening them by God’s grace to build a healthy family which can pass down a tradition of family health to the next generation.
These, and all other social issues ultimately arrive out of the sinfulness of human hearts, and God is in the business of tearing down these sin structures in the world by tearing them down within each person who understands the gospel message. “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” 1 John 3:8
What if the government starts to persecute Christians? What if we lose our freedoms? How should we respond? We’ve already seen that physical violence is not the answer. There is a time and place to for Christians to engage in civil disobedience, but it is probably not what many think. It’s not about armed revolutions against the government, but rather, a spiritual refusal to take part in that which is contrary to the will of God.
The apostles, Peter and John, made this quite clear to the Sanhedrin saying, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). They were respectful toward the authorities, even though they made it clear they would not obey any law or edict contrary to God’s will.
God expects Christ followers to refuse to comply with any statute standing against His own expressed will, regardless of what consequences could result by so doing.
Keep in mind that the early church was physically beaten, and many of them were even tortured to death because of this decision! Hebrews 11 tells us that people enduring physical attacks for the sake of their obedience to God is not new! “There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground” (Hebrews 11:35b-38).
Exactly this attitude is seen in Daniel’s friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (better known by their pagan nicknames: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego), who resist a powerful King’s idolatrous edict and are thrown into a fiery furnace as a result! The story, recorded in Daniel 3, begins with the pagan king's prideful edict that all must worship a golden statue he has made. Being worshippers of the true God, Daniel’s friends are caught between the rock of obedience to God, and a hard place of obeying the laws of the nation in which they reside, which also includes the penalty of being burned alive for failure to comply! They choose to face the fire.
Their response begins in Daniel 3:16. “16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).
Daniel’s friends expressed a confidence that God was able to take care of them, and indeed would care for them whether or not he choose to spare them from the agony of being burned alive. They believed that while God was certainly able to save them miraculously, that they did not know His mind to say whether He would or not! What a statement of faith! They both believed in the complete and ultimate power of God, but also they trusted so strongly in His infinite wisdom that they would not charge Him with wrongdoing should He not use His power to spare their lives!
**Side Note: This contrasts so strongly with the attitude of many today, which could be summarized as “I cannot believe (refuse to believe) in a God who would not do exactly what I think is best in any conceivable scenario regarding human suffering or death.” This is the assumption that all those who charge God with wrongdoing for allowing people to die from tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, cancer, or shark attacks make.**
Peter, John, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah all bravely refused to obey the sinful commands of their God-established authority figures, instead trusting God by obeying His stated will no matter what consequences would come as a result.
Their responses show exactly how Christians should respond whenever we face a conflict where we must choose between obeying God or our government. We must obey God rather than men.
Don’t despair! All is not hopeless! If you have been reading this series so far, perhaps you found yourself wondering, “Does God want us to just sit back and do nothing while He rules the universe?”
And maybe some of you astute readers also had this thought in your mind: “that is all well and good, Brian, but you still have not sufficient answered my question about our Christian responsibility in a participative government. How should we interact with such a government, accepting the fact that God can use rulers who rebel against Him just as well as those who seek Him? What should Christians do in a land where our voice is heard and counted (or at least should be) in directing the future course of our government and nation?” What if you live in a place where the governing authorities are “of the people, by the people and for the people”?
To what degree should we involve ourselves in it, and how does this idea affect our perceptions of the nation in which we live?
I do believe these are really good and important questions that we must answer to follow Christ right here and now in history, but to answer them we must have our focus in the right place, and that is why I had to preface them with the previous two posts.
Our primary responsibility is to God and His Kingdom. He and His Kingdom must always be first, ceaselessly first, as Jim McGuiggan would say. Jesus calls His followers to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” on one occasion, whereas the overarching message of the gospel and the whole of scripture calls us to pledge our allegiances to God!
This means that while we do care, and deeply, about the course of our nation, we do not build our hope and trust on such a sandy foundation, for “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:20)!
We can thus, with this view, approach the desires and goals of our participatory government as always subservient to the advancement of the Kingdom which we serve, Christ’s! And Christ’s Kingdom does not depend on the strength or wealth of any nation in which Christians reside on earth, it exists without borders, beyond the reach and power of despots. Should God choose to judge this nation, so be it. This does not mean the promise of Christ has failed! This by no means insinuates that the purposes of God in furthering His kingdom are in jeopardy! Whether by building up or by tearing down an earthly nation, God is working to reach into the farthest corners of the world and into the darkest parts of human hearts to save as many souls as possible.
So then, if our voices cry out for anything in a land where we live as strangers and aliens, let them cry out first and foremost, “the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15)! This is not a political cry, and it cannot be made into laws of a land, but rather is a new covenant law that must be written upon human hearts (Hebrews 8:10f).
If, and only if, we are focused first on this kingdom, we will be appropriately focused to have our voice heard in our participative government on earth to the end of furthering God’s purposes.
In Jeremiah 29:7, we see God’s telling Israel—that is being carried off into captivity by Babylon— that they should be concerned about the welfare of the country in which they life. “Pray for” it, God says, because if the wickedness of this nation spirals out of control, the godly people inside of it, along with the wicked will also be swept up in its resulting judgment. God instructed His people to be concerned for the good welfare of the country in which they lived even though they were strangers and not citizens in it.
So, then, what if we have opportunity to prohibit sin in the place in which we live by voting, shouldn’t we take advantage of that? But, the question is: how exactly do we do that?
If Christians are the majority group of a participative government, then they could easily implement laws according to God’s expressed will in an effort to have the strongest and best possible society. Notice what I didn’t just say there. It does not make a society “godly” just because the nation enforces laws based on Christian morality over all people who live in it. Such laws could have a good influence of prohibiting sin, because these values are best for people, but at the same time these laws could NEVER reach down into the heart of those being governed to change their desires to sin, only the gospel of Christ can do that.
As Christians in this scenario, we must always remember that these laws are not “evidence that God rules a nation” but rather they are simply: a blessing of a restraining influence against sin for a people. Since we know God’s ways are best for any society of function, we would certainly expect that any place which—whether knowingly of unknowingly—was ruled according to at least some godly principles, would flourish in proportion to their adherence to them.
So, it is good and right then for a Chrisitan to desire others to follow God’s standard for living because we know they will bless the nation and give opportunities for spreading Christ’s Kingdom in times of peace and prosperity. Go ahead and cast your vote for your nation to enact Godly principles as you are given ability to do so.
But what about when the followers of Christ are no longer a majority in a nation with participatory government? Obviously, in such situations the laws will inevitably be changed to match those of the majority! Why would we expect anything else? As the new majority dismantles what the old majority had established, what should we expect? The obvious: any laws which were once based on a Christian worldview will evaporate, and possibly quite quickly.
What impact does this have on a now minority of Christians who live in this place of participatory government? Where we once expected favorable situations for Christians (because the majority shared similar beliefs) we should now expect unfavorable situations for Christians. Where Christian values once guided and preserved the society at large through the laws enacted by a participatory government, we should expect these values to be rejected in favor of the new majority's desires. As a result, we should expect such a society to rush toward moral decadence and an eventual implosion resulting in God’s judgement.
None of this should be surprising in the slightest, since these laws never were God’s plan to stop the sinfulness of mankind anyway! God’s plan to fight against and mitigate the destructive power of sin against individuals and society is the power of the CROSS of Jesus Christ! (1 John 3:8)
With our allegiance given to Christ’s Kingdom, we’ll stand firm through the storm. “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrew 12:28-29).
What responsibilities do we as Christians have toward our government? The New Testament is clear that Jesus instructed His followers to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matt 22:21) and also Romans 13:1 calls believers to obey those with governing authority.
Seems simple doesn't it?
But what about situations when those who exercise governing authority are ungodly?
What about those who not only live a sinful, morally bankrupt life, but also incentivize others to live the same? What about those who murder the innocent for greed or power, who abuse and oppress the helpless? What about rulers who actively seek to stamp out Christianity through various means of persecution? What about those who destroy nations and leave people in suffering and misery?
What responsibility do Christians have toward such rulers?
The answer might surprise us: “All of you must obey the government rulers. Everyone who rules was given the power to rule by God. And all those who rule now were given that power by God. So anyone who is against the government is really against something God has commanded” (Romans 13:1-2a ERV). God calls Christ followers to respect and submit to those who hold authority because whether for blessing or punishment, they have been instituted as they are by God.
It bothers me tremendously when people who call themselves Christians only accept Jesus words in Matt 22:21 and Paul’s words in Romans 13 when the authority in question behaves in a manner that they find acceptable!
Where did Jesus or Paul, or anywhere in the scriptures say that the sinful failings of a ruler exempted Christ followers from their obligation to submit to their authority? Does the Word suggest anywhere that under such circumstances their authority is forfeit? No, but many, many Christian philosophers down through the ages have based their entire approach to this matter on that single assumption: That the sinful failings of a leader forfeits their God-given authority.
If it was true that the sins of a leader forfeited their authority, then God could never use any human leader. Perhaps though, many mean to say it is not their sins generally, but specifically only leaders who actively and intentionally rebel against the purposes of God. But what does the Bible show us about these kinds of leaders? Does the Bible indicate they lose their authority for this reason?
One of the most neglected facts in this matter is simply this: the authorities about which Paul speaks in Romans 13, and also about which Jesus speaks in Matt 22:21 were hostile to Christians specifically and to YHWH generally. If you truly think any world ruler today has forfeited their authority because of their wickedness, surely we do not understand the historical backdrop in which the New Testament was written. Go read Seutonius' “The 12 Caesars” to get a realistic picture of what a truly evil ruler looks like, and then consider it was to THESE same Caesars that Christ called His people to submit in the New Testament!
This should not surprise anyone, but sadly it might. The New Testament instructions about submission to authorities were given to Christians when their own authorities were hostile against them.
Internally, we may feel swelling within us certain objections to this idea. We may find ourselves crying out, “but why God?! Why should we submit ourselves to ungodly leaders who drag your people off to kill them? How can we sit by and watch atrocities being committed by authorities? How can these wicked men have been put in these places of power by a God of goodness and justice?”
God has already given some answers to these questions in His word when we consider the leaders God uses in the Bible to accomplish His purposes. God is doing greater things than you or I can imagine, and as He works His eternal plan to save as many people for eternal life as possible, His plans include both building up and tearing down nations.
In Isaiah 45:1 God calls Cyrus by name to come and destroy nations for the sake of His eternal purposes, and verse 7 is quite telling. “I made the light and the darkness. I bring peace, and I cause trouble. I, the Lord, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7 ERV). Whether peace or destruction comes on a nation God is working , “for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28) Daniel 2:21 testifies that it is God who “gives power to kings, and he takes their power away.”
In a shocking revelation to Habakkuk, God tells the prophet that He will bring the wicked Babylonians to destroy His own nation of Israel! Make no mistake, God tells Habakkuk, I will work through these ungodly leaders to bring about the ultimate good for those who love Me, by destroying the corrupted Israel so that a faithful remnant will be preserved (see again Romans 8:28).
The labor of the prophet Jeremiah was to get the leaders of Israel to accept the difficult truth: yes, God can and will use a wicked nation to destroy His own (Israel) so that His own eternal purposes of ultimate good for as many lost souls as possible would stand. Jeremiah was hated and persecuted for this because most people don’t like to hear “God builds nations up and tears them down.”
Romans 9:17 shows us that God placed a wicked, hard-hearted Pharaoh in his position of authority knowing that He was wicked, but still in order to bring about the ultimate good for those who love Him (i.e. Romans 8:28).
When God appoints an authority, only He knows if it is time for this authority to build up and bless a people, or to bring them into judgement of their wickedness.
Which ever God has in mind a Christian’s responsibility toward the leader remains constant: respect the fact that God placed them there to accomplish His eternal purposes! Those purposes might include the judgement of a nation, and if so, our response should be as Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”
I realize that I'm starting with part 2 here, but my mind is working backwards on this one, so bear with me. After a little while, I'll come back in part 1 to address this: What responsibilities do we as Christians have towards our government? The New Testament seems pretty clear that Jesus called us to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” and also in Romans 13:1 we are called to obey those with governing authority. But this question can become a bit more complex if you live in a place where the governing authorities are “of the people, by the people and for the people.” What is the responsibility of a Christian then, with respect to a participatory government? To what degree should we involve ourselves in it, and how does this idea affect our perceptions of the nation in which we live?
But, for now... on to part 2
I read a familiar line of reasoning recently that is often used in support of physically violent uprisings by Christians to fight against ungodly, evil forces in the world.
This particular individual pointed to 2 Tim 2:9 and claimed that this verse authorized, even demanded that Christians physically fight to allow the spread of the gospel unhindered. The author said, “Because Paul also says that the Word of God is not to be bound (2 Tim 2:9 NIV), the right of resistance against tyranny is an important element of the rule-of-law system ordained by Him. For this reason, as John Knox (1513–1572) put it, to rebel against a wicked ruler can be the same as to oppose the devil himself, ‘who is the one abusing from the sword and authority of God’.27 Knox stated that anyone who dares to rule over a nation against the law of God can be lawfully resisted, even by force if necessary.”1
To claim that Paul is here authorizing Christians to use forcible resistance, even against a truth-suppressing government is patently false, and furthermore an abuse not just of 2 Tim 2.9, but of the entire New Testament. The context of 2 Tim clearly affirms precisely the opposite — namely that Christians should rather suffer their own deaths than take up arms to return the same violence on their persecutors! Paul was in jail for the gospel, and would die for the gospel soon after penning these words, and even when ungodly Jews sought his life, he did not resort to violence for defense, rather he trusted Christ!
Can anyone sustain the view that Paul, Peter, Jesus, or any early Christian supported the use of forcible resistance against evil doers, especially against those in the positions of authority? No. No one who views the scripture in the way that all of the apostles, Christ, or the early church did! That is because any use of armed force in some misguided fight against worldly sources of evil misses entirely the focus of Jesus’ ministry and teaching.
Christ called his followers to peace, love for enemies, and repeatedly to look to God for justice, trusting him for protection, even if it meant the protection of their souls since their bodies were killed. Jesus said these very words “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Early Christians understood this well, and as renowned scholar Everett Ferguson observes, “[early] Christians made no resistance, leaving vengeance to God. . . . There are no known examples of retaliation by Christians for persecution in the early centuries.”2 And it was not just lack of resistance, it was an opposition to “the use of force in any way by Christians . . . [who] were forbidden to kill their enemies or to condemn others to be burned or stoned.”3
At this point, many would point to the religious motivation behind many who fought against Hitler and the Axis powers of WWII in order to liberate these people. They might say, “Hitler was clearly evil and wicked, and the necessary, good, and right thing to do was for those who loved Christ to fight against Hitler until his power to destroy the innocent was broken forever.” This argument is quite potent, and it deserves attention and consideration.
It’s certainly true that the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime were absolutely evil in their oppression and murder of millions of innocent lives. Who would argue that such actions merited the judgment of God Almighty? But therein lies the rub: how does God administer this judgment against sinful nations? At times in scripture, God intervenes directly by His own hand (as in Noah’s flood, Sodom & Gomorrah, etc.) but more often than not, the tool which God uses to judge a nation is another nation. The whole of scripture, especially the major and minor prophets, are replete with this message: God rules the nations, and actively judgements their sinfulness according to His own foreknowledge in order to further his purposes through the agency of other sinful nations. This much is acknowledged by most people, but they miss this one, little, but extremely important fact that changes everything.
It is this: God’s usage of any nation to carry out His judgement in NO WAY implies that the nation he uses is thus “His special people” or even “more righteous” than the nation which they are destroying!
The prophet Habakkuk got a hard dose of this reality when God told him that He would be sending Babylon to judge Judah for their wickedness in Habakkuk 1:5-11. Habakkuk tried to protest, as many today would, that Babylon were certainly no lovers of YHWH, and were actually WORSE than Judah in Habakkuk 1:12-13! But God simply replies by saying “even so, I will use them for my judgement and then judge them too in their own time” in Habakkuk chapter 2. The book ends with the faithful prophet Habakkuk showing an astounding example of faith and trust in YHWH by praising God!
Just look at the trust bleeding through these words “16 I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me.Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. 17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”
Habakkuk knew Babylon was not “a godly nation” simply because God used them to judge the evil and wickedness of another nation. The same is true of the Allied powers in WWII. The fact that they were used by God to defeat the Axis powers does not imply that they are thus God’s “favored” or “special nation” because of it. The New Testament stresses over and over that God already has “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” and it is a spiritual nation without any physical borders called “the church of Christ”! (see 1 Peter 2:9, Col 1:13, many others!!). Jesus explains that entrance to this nation comes not by borders or gates, but through a spiritual rebirth (see John 3:3-6).
With that being said, the idea of a “Christian nation” other than the church is certainly not a Biblical one.
The first church struggled in a world where it was illegal to be a Christian, where there was state-sponsored terror against followers of Jesus, imprisonment and even murder because of it. And yet, when Jesus and the apostles faced down the violent, godless dictators (much like Hitler!!!) who ruled the world, they NEVER called on Christians to resist them with physical violence! “ For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). The reverse was true, that Christians were murdered by their earthly rulers, and much of the N.T. addresses the obvious struggle that these Christians must have continually faced in this regard. If there was any time in which Christians should have retaliated with violence against murderous force, surely it would have been during the time the New Testament was written! But in every case, we see that these early Christians left the judgment of these rulers to God, and eventually Rome would fall, but that was in God’s hands not those of His church.
The letter of 1 Peter addresses just such a group of Christians who were enduring unjust suffering at the hands of a sinful, godless government. Persecution is in the background of much of the New Testament writings in fact. But never, let me say again, NEVER in scripture do we see inspired men calling out in a rage for Christians to fight against these rulers as their god-given duty! We see exactly the opposite, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
The point is clear that even if these Christians felt justified in returning the attacks, God's will for them was to continue to do good instead of fighting back. Peter goes on to encourage these Christians to “not fear . . . [do] not be frightened” when they chose not to defend themselves or return violent rebellion for violence suffered (1 Peter 3:14). Peter sums the discussion up by saying that instead of worrying about what might happen, these Christians “should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:19).
In such difficult times, Peter, just His Lord Jesus, kept the focus on the real concern of these Christians, which was neither their physical existence, nor their physical governors, but rather the greater spiritual reality. In chapter 5, Peter reminds these Christians of their true enemy, and it is not human attackers but Satan! Satan CANNOT be defeated with weapons of this world, or armed revolutions against ungodly rulers. Instead, Peter tells Christians to fight by “Cast[ing] all your anxiety on [Jesus] because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:7‒8). Peter's answer for Christians was not to pick up a sword and defend themselves. Paul echoes the same, but goes on to add, “do not repay anyone evil for evil . . . live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17‒21).
While there are books written on the subject, the greatest one has already been written; it is called the New Testament. I fear for any whose worldly patriotic sentiments are more highly valued than allegiance to Christ our Lord. So, while most Americans may agree with your patriotic sentiments, and even despise me for having said this, I “must obey God rather than men,” and when scripture is examined, the teaching of Christ and all of the N.T. condemn violence, even against a tyrannical, God-hating, Christian-murdering government.
While it rubs against our natural grain, against our natural desire to defend ourselves, it is nevertheless what Christ commands those who trust Him, even with their lives as they rely on Him in faith rather than their own efforts to forcibly overthrow evil with violence.
Framing the Debate
Words are powerful, and the most powerful ones are those you never think about for a moment. When we hear news outlets and read in papers about stories, we often get caught up in the "narrative" as it is told and become outraged or enamored accordingly. What we do not often stop to consider is the way about which the topic is being discussed, and whether or not the language itself leads us toward an inevitable conclusion.
The reality is that you can take almost any fact and by the language with which you discuss it, put your own “spin” on the story to say almost anything you want, even if it totally contradicts the facts.
Abortion has been framed a question of “women’s rights” and most people believe that it is really about that. The wise people in favor of abortion who pitch it within this frame realized a long time ago that is the way in which their position can gain the greatest amount of support, and also maintain the appearance of having the moral high ground over their opposition. After all, who would say “I am against women’s rights!” Probably no one. Having thus successfully framed the debate, all they need to do is caricature all who disagree with their position (abortion) as barbaric, bigoted, morally deficient people who are “against women’s rights.” So, the frame is really a tool that enables you to labels your opponent and dismiss their arguments no matter how substantive they may be.
How many people, however, have stopped to ask whether or not this frame is actually propaganda in and of itself which influences the debate by the nature of its language? Lets consider the language for a moment. In order to do this, we have to stop talking about the frame of the debate, and look down to its substance. Is it necessarily true that those who oppose abortion are against the rights of women?
If you are in doubt about this, consider this scenario. A woman is pregnant with a female child. Which women’s right’s should be considered? Why should the rights of the already born woman overrule the rights of the unborn woman?Clearly, those against abortion are not against the rights of women, rather they are simply in favor or “equal rights” if you will, for the unborn child.
So, the label of “women’s rights” for pro-abortion does not actually address the issue, as it does not consider the rights of the unborn woman. However, lets stop for a moment and consider the frame “pro-life.”
Is it true that all those against abortion are in favor of the life of all concerned in this question, including both the unborn child and the mother? And, is it also true that all those who are in favor of abortion are willing to terminate the life of a ‘fetus’ and are thus against its life? Yes, by definition. So then, does the “pro-life” frame more accurately represent reality than “pro-choice”?
Yes, and the implications of this are obvious and terrifying.
Many, many people are convinced that this debate should be framed as “women’s rights” when in reality it is about no such thing. How have they been convinced of such is what is scary. Hilariously, most people today consider themselves to be immune to propaganda, as though it only affects people who are not as “smart as I am” etc. They think about it with an attitude of “Surely I would see it coming and know what it was.”
The problem which is rarely pointed out or discussed is whether or not the FRAME is legitimate or illegitimate. Often, those attempting to frame the debate in their favor by certain language react with feigned naivety or otherwise outrage when it is suggested that the very frame of the debate they have put forward is deceptive.
The whole issue concerned in the “women’s rights” frame of debate is not difficult to understand logically, but it is nearly impossible to talk about without extreme emotional reactions.
So, maybe we need to consider two other examples in which framing the debate makes all the difference in the world.
In the first, consider the push for acceptance of “homosexual marriage” is being framed as debate about “marriage equality” and is being spoken about as a “civil right.” You see how that works now don’t you? Why issues are spoken about in the way they are: to frame the debate. Because if you present your case in this way, it ensures that you will win by nature of the language you have used and not based on the merits of your position. The language with which you have framed the debate allows you to end the debate before it begins by labeling your opponent as a bigot who denies rights of others and who considers some people as inferior others.
In the second, consider how the actions of ISIS (or ISIL if you are President Obama) are being framed by the media and President Obama. It is continually being framed as though “it is not Islamic,” being rather just a group of “radical extremists.” This frame allows a way for them to condemn the actions while not addressing their source! Whenever ISIS is talked about, the beliefs of those practicing such things are ignored entirely and are left as “beyond the scope of discussion”! When in reality, it is precisely their beliefs which lead ISIS to the actions they have taken, and their beliefs are deeply rooted in both the example of their prophet Mohammed and in the teachings of the Qu’ran. Clearly any idea about how to deal with ISIS must take into consideration their core beliefs—which are the reason they even exist! Everything about ISIS is Islamic, and it is impossible to claim otherwise, unless you have framed the debate from the get-go as a “non-Islamic issue”. Any strategy which ignores this is designed to fail. If you’d like to read of an approach which adequately acknowledges and considers their beliefs, look here.
Framing seems to be the chief debate strategy these days. It is no longer about what is TRUE and what is not, but rather about labeling your opponent as backwards if they do not agree with your position.
Using a frame allows you a quick and easy shortcut to a logical fallacy of “personal incredulity” or “appeal to the people” so that you don’t have to deal with the substance of the question at hand.
Open your eyes and start to see through the frames down into the substance. It may be harder, as it requires more thinking and work, but in the end you’ll have a result worth considering since you will thinking about the substance of the arguments and not just how they are labeled.
Don't be fooled by the language, dig into the facts.
Everyone is Intolerant
When two people disagree these days, why is it that only one of the groups is labeled intolerant?
What I mean is that everyone is intolerant of something, it is really just a question of what they will not tolerate. The popular form of “intolerance” today is intolerant of those who would hold other people accountable to an exterior moral standard.
It is not often talked about as a form of intolerance, but it is just as real as any other.
The difference between it and other forms of intolerance is that it is an entirely self-contradictory and duplicitous position. At least the other forms of intolerance are forthright about their intolerance.
For some, the boundary is based on the content of their faith. What is to be “tolerated” is not really about tolerating in this case, but rather about what is right and wrong. The eternal source upon which their faith is based provides this system for distinguishing right from wrong, and thus from what is good and acceptable and what is wrong and reprehensible. These groups are easy to attack because they are still a majority, but they are certainly not the only groups which are intolerant.
The voice which catches the most attention — undoubtedly by agenda or design — is the voice which says only intolerance is intolerable. The proclaimed mantra of this group is some variation of “each one is entitled to believe and do whatever they would like so long as they don’t hurt others.” In this view, good is that which brings pleasure and evil is that which causes suffering. There is a word for this old philosophy, hedonism — “the ethical theory that pleasure is the highest good and proper aim of human life”. Hedonism presents itself as nobly standing on the moral high ground, where they seek to extend life, and relieve suffering of others, all the while benevolently allowing people to believe and do whatever brings them personal happiness and satisfaction.
But Hedonism fails both logically and practically.
Logically, this view proves self-contradictory and untenable. To say that each is entitled to believe and do as they like must allow for people to disagree with the very proposition itself. But, in order for the proposition to work, everyone would have to accept it... and this contradicts its own assertion that everything is acceptable, because it is then unacceptable to reject this position. So, it fails logically.
When put into practice, hedonism inevitably leads to the moral decay of a society and is a breeding ground for narcissistic hatred and intolerance toward any views which would presume to judge such moral depravity as “evil”.
So, hedonism is not all it’s cracked up to be. It promises something it cannot deliver: a world where everyone lives in peace without any problems if we would all just let each other do whatever we want. What it delivers is a world where all are “calloused to evil and give themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more.” In such a world, the only enemies are those who would dare to speak out against objective moral depravity, and it is then that the tables suddenly turn, as the group which promotes itself as “accepting of all” becomes the violent prosecutor of those with whom they disagree, until they are silenced or destroyed.
The question is not who is “intolerant” because everyone is! The real question is “Who is right about the boundaries?” In other words, we should be asking “what is good and what is evil?” The epistemological basis of each group in response to that question is where the real problem lies. But it takes work to unearth our assumptions about how we know what is good or evil and put them to the test.
just some thoughts from the minister with the Ft Cobb church of Christ.