Cease-Fire: Rethinking the Culture Wars

By Kelly Boyd

The alignment of Christians with political conservatism is a recent phenomenon rarely questioned these days. Conservatism, it seems, simply is understood as the biblical position, but the results have been mixed at best, from a cultural standpoint. In fact, it can be predicted with confidence that gay marriage will be legal in all 50 states in our lifetime. How can this be, when Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)?

I propose that it’s time for a cease-fire in the culture war and a closer examination of the church’s calling in a sinful world. Here’s the reason: the culture war has been a disaster for the church and the cause of Christ.

In Deuteronomy 1:42, God told the Israelites, “Do not go up and fight, because I will not be with you,” but the Israelites did not listen and they were defeated. The Israelites were on a mission God had not commanded, and I believe that is the case today. It is just as sinful now as it was then.

This has happened because Christians have been preaching morality instead of Jesus. We can blame Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, Francis Schaeffer, D. James Kennedy, Pat Robertson, et al., for this shift in the mission of the church, but ultimately it’s our fault. As shepherds of God’s flock, our responsibility is to protect it from wolves and false teachers, and we have been deceived.

 

Bringing Glory to God

Jesus never gave his disciples marching orders to “preach morality,” and he never did so himself. In fact, in Acts 15, the apostles said that law keeping was a burden that neither they nor their fathers had been able to bear. So why do we campaign for sin to be illegal for nonbelievers? Will it save anyone? Will it bring glory to God?

Notice that Paul never preached morality, nor did he attack the sinful practices of nonbelievers. Does he attack idolatry in his Mars Hill sermon (see Acts 17:22ff)? He was troubled in his spirit because of it, but he was respectful in his address, and he kept the focus on Jesus. In his ministry at Ephesus, no one could say Paul had spoken against the goddess Diana. If Paul had done so, the outcome of that riot would have been far different (Acts 19:37). Paul told the Corinthians he was determined to “know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

In fact, the only times Paul brings up morality is in regard to the practices of the church. He contrasts past sinful practices with what they had become: a new creation (Ephesians 2:1-3). In Romans 1:28, Paul wrote this of certain nonbelievers: “God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.”

First Peter is the model for the persecuted church today, and a careful reading of that letter reveals the character and conduct of a church that would be above reproach in the world. Christians keep their behavior excellent among the Gentiles (nonbelievers) because it will cause them to glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:11, 12). Has the culture war caused nonbelievers to glorify God?

At Christmastime a few years ago I received an e-mail urging Christians to flood the offices of the American Civil Liberties Union with Christmas cards. The hope was it would paralyze the ACLU’s mailroom and overwhelm its staff.

But what would be the point? Would ACLU workers and officials glorify God because of it? “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 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 3:8, 9).

Finally, we are compelled by the example of Jesus himself: “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). No so-called sinner was ever afraid of Jesus; the Lord’s enemies were the religious elite. Sinners, in fact, flocked to Jesus.

A Mennonite school opened not far from my home in northeastern Pennsylvania, and a business customer of mine asked me about them. He clearly was afraid. He lives with his boyfriend in a nearby town, and he felt personally threatened by this group he knew nothing about, simply because it was a church. Is that what we want, for the world to fear us? Is that what Jesus wants?

 

Meddling Is Not Our Mission

Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), so why would we want to take him by force and make him king? We have only one divine mission and purpose, and it’s not to preserve the nuclear family, outlaw abortion, prevent gay marriage, permit prayer in school, or any other social cause you care to name. It is to go into all the world and preach the good news (Matthew 28:19, 20), period. All these other things are meddling.

Peter said, “If you suffer, it should not be as a . . . meddler” (1 Peter 4:15). What is a meddler? Is it not someone who interferes in something that is none of his business? The world is telling us that personal morality among nonbelievers is none of our business, and a backlash has begun against the church. Every legislative victory has resulted in more aggressive tactics by the opposition. People have left the church, and our own youth are reluctant to share their faith because of the politicization of the gospel. Countless books and TV hours have pilloried the tactics and message of the church, which looks hateful because we have strayed from the gospel. The name and cause of Jesus have been brought low because of it.

This has happened because we have been deceived and seduced by a seemingly good cause, espoused by seemingly good men. Deceit is a hallmark of the end times, according to Scripture, and Satan targets even the elect. Evil men and imposters come from inside the church (2 Timothy 3:13), and Scripture says there will even be an imposter in God’s temple “proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The temple in Scripture is sometimes our bodies, sometimes the church, sometimes Heaven itself. The most likely temple referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2 is the church, and verse 9 says the coming of the “lawless one” will be in accord with the activity of Satan, which includes deception and wickedness.

If that is true, then we have been following an imposter. If neither Jesus nor the apostles commanded the culture war, and I don’t believe they did, then the source of it is evil. You can be deceived by an imposter only if you don’t know the original well enough to spot the fake, and that is an indictment of our Bible knowledge.

I have been as guilty of this as anyone, and we all need to repent. We have allowed Satan’s orders to compete with and short-circuit the Great Commission. Christians have allowed him to reshape the church of Jesus into a conservative political action committee, and taken positions on every conservative issue, and these have become the message the world hears. Incalculable damage has been done.

Jesus does not want us to “take America back” for him, he wants us to take his church back for him. We can and we must, if the world is to believe.

 

Kelly Boyd is a legal photographer and videographer with Legal-Eze Video Services in Ashland, Pennsylvania.

You Might Also Like

Small Churches: Responding to Some Stereotypes

Small Churches: Responding to Some Stereotypes

22 Comments

  1. Brian Giese
    September 6, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Kelly Boyd’s article in your September 4 issue, “Cease-Fire: Rethinking the Culture Wars,” urges Christians to focus on evangelism and abandon our struggle against an increasingly secular society. He inaccurately equates standing up for moral values with teaching works salvation. He accuses Christians who take a public stand on moral issues of being “sinful,” of being “wolves and false teachers” and of “preaching morality rather than Jesus.”

    Mr. Boyd says that gay marriage in all 50 states is inevitable, so we should just be quiet and endure it. Is he unaware of the homosexual agenda in our public schools? If gay marriage becomes the law of the land, our children will be taught homosexual acts in sex education classes. This is already happening in some states where gay marriage has been legalized. Should Christian parents sit silently while their children are being corrupted?

    Mr. Boyd is confused about what we do for the lost, and what we do to protect innocent lambs. We should share the Gospel with the lost, but we should also fight the world’s efforts to deceive members of God’s flock. This is not “meddling” as Boyd suggests. It’s doing our job as pastors and shepherds.

    Yours in Christ,
    Brian Giese

  2. Preacher Man
    September 7, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I concur with much of what Brian claims. I would further include that Christ constantly confronted sin in others (see the woman at the well, Nicodemus, healing the man at Bethesda). He did it lovingly, but with authority. It’s dangerous and naive to believe that Christ would not have us stand up for Truth. Persecution came to the apostles because they were proclaiming sin in the cultural leaders (“His blood is on your hands”). Were they not sinners? Did the apostles not confront that sin? The entire ‘Bringing glory to God’ section is full of inaccuracies and bad application. Where are the men in the church?? Stand up.

  3. September 7, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Excellent article!

    This is quite similar to Andy Stanley’ discussion earlier this summer on (The Separation of Church and Hate), which had a number of excellent points that I reluctantly had to agree with:

    *It is far easier to make a point than it is to make a difference. The mission Jesus gave to the church was to make a difference in the world.

    *The church was not called to make non-Christians act like Christians. Christians do a poor enough job of this, themselves, so let’s work on us before we try to make people who make no claim to Christ follow his teaching.

    *The church loses its effectiveness in the culture the more it tries to make points and force non-Christians to follow Christian commands, and it is most effective when it lives out the gospel/

    We do not need to accept the morality of society as our own, and we should not do so. At the same time, if we say “this is what we (the church) believe, and we need to get better at practicing it, but even so, we have no desire to force others who are not in the church to follow our practices”, we have rejected the road of the Pharisees and embraced the methods and messages of Jesus and Paul as our own.

    By simply preaching morality and trying to use the levers of society to enforce it, what we really accomplish is half-measures in which the people of the world can feel comfort in their “goodness” without the troubling need of a savior.

  4. Neil
    September 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    i became a christian while in college, while living in a fraternity. the church i attended was literally across the street from a row of fraternities. one saturday evening as we were standing in the parking lot after a bible study one of the others made a disparaging judgmental comment about the party across the street. the correctness of his position was not the point. his expectations of the non-believes across the street was.

    this struck a chord with me since a few weeks earlier, and before a work of the spirit – i would have been among the partiers. so i responded with a question; “what do you expect them to be doing on a saturday night?”

    the question received the response i expected and hoped for – silence. my question was salient for the small group in that church parking lot ready to impose their biblical standard upon a bunch of frat boys for whom the bible was completely foreign.

    boyd’s point is as salient now… obviously, even much more so.

  5. Mike
    September 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    In response to Kelly Boyd’s article, I would like to point out a couple of issues.
    1) In general, the Bible does not address the participation of Christians in government at all. However, it does say that we should give to the government what is owed to the government: taxes, honor, respect, etc. In the American system of government, a democratic republic, a citizen does have certain responsibilities that were not present in the Roman Empire. In a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” we owe a degree of participation in the political process and should “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s…”
    2) When verses are taken out of context, I tend to doubt the remainder of the article. The first text used, is thus used. That Romans 8:31 does not refer to apparent success and ease should be evident by some of the other things mentioned in the chapter. Paul talks clearly about suffering in a Christian. Christians will go through problems, but that they can be confident that all things work together for good in the end, and that none of the present troubles, trials, persecutions, etc can separate us from Christ. Based on this chapter, I would expect that not all Christian efforts will meet with visible success. Using this line of reasoning, one would have to conclude that any evangelism attempt that did not result in a conversion was contrary to God’s will and thus a sin. After all, “If God is with us…”
    3) A couple of inconvenient NT examples of preaching regarding morals in a political context (talking to non-Christian rulers): John the Baptist’s preaching in Mat 14 and Paul in Acts 24:25.
    4) The article mentions “no so-called sinner…” Jesus never disputes that they are indeed sinners. In fact, that He agrees that they are sinners is implied when He tells them to stop sinning or that their sins are forgiven. Jesus even affirms that He had come to save sinners. There is no doubt about it, from a biblical standpoint that prostitutes, cheating tax-collectors, etc are sinners. The Bible mentions the disciples being afraid at several points. If they were afraid, and news of Jesus overturning tables at the temples and rumors of Him being demon-possessed were circulating, it stands to reason that some may have been afraid, even if the record doesn’t state it specifically.
    5) We must take great care in extrapolating certain stances from Jesus’ special life and ministry. He had a specific purpose, to give His life as a propitiation for sins. Many have erroneously advanced pacifism based on Jesus’ life because they have failed to remember special purpose. Yes, we are called to imitate His life in certain aspects. We all, however, understand that there are limits to this when it comes to His special purpose (we don’t all go out and try to walk on water, feed 5000, or get ourselves crucified).
    6) I hate to break it to the author, but Jesus promised persecution when we do things right. Saying that the world mocks us as Christians for the church’s message doesn’t necessarily mean the church is doing things wrong. I’ll agree that there are many embarrassing “Christians” out there in the political arena. There are also a great many embarrassing “Christians” in other arenas of life, perverting the Gospel. We don’t stop preaching the Gospel because many do it poorly. Neither can we withdraw from political action as Christians because many do it poorly. We can stick to a more authentic message when that needs to be done.
    7) The attempt to equate socially-conservative political action from Christians with end times apostasy and anti-Christs is simply unwarranted. I, for one, am a committed Christian. I preach Christ and am politically active. I am troubled if the author thinks that God disapproves of defending innocent human life (opposing abortion and euthanasia), defending His plan for all creation (marriage, etc.), and standing up for liberty is wrong. The Bible says that the government is God’s minister. I am not ashamed to be God’s minister in either area.

    I do agree that it is a problem when we forget to announce the good news because we are so focused on politics.We certainly should not allow politics to compromise the Gospel message or sound doctrine. However, I think it is a false choice to say we are either Pat Robertson or we stay out of it. There is a middle ground there. Let’s preach “the full counsel of God.”

  6. Mike
    September 7, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Chris L,
    I’m not trying to initiate a long debate here, but I wanted to say this…
    I agree with not trying to make non-Christians live like Christians, but I think we need to make an important distinction here. In particular, that there are some rules given by God to the Church, to Christians (offerings, women not teaching or having authority over men, how to select elders, no lawsuits among believers, prayer, etc.), and I have no desire to enforce those rules on nonbelievers. However, there are many other rules that apply to all men (or people, if you prefer) as creations of God. Here we find many things that are included in the laws of almost all nations (laws against murder, robbery, etc). I think that laws against homosexual marriage, abortion, and some other modern issues fall into the latter category. It seems to me a straw-man argument to use the old “trying to make non-Christians live like Christians.” No, I want laws that encourage non-Christians to live like human beings, created in God’s image (whether they admit this or not) and respect that image in others, by obeying reflecting in the nation’s laws God’s law.

  7. Neil
    September 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    i believe preacher man and brian miss the point. boyd did not say we do not confront sin ( e.g. – see the woman at the well, Nicodemus, healing the man at Bethesda). nor do we turn a blind eye to the evils in society (i.e. – protect innocent lambs). though i would say for far too long the evangelical church has focused on just a few pet lambs…

    boyd’s most salient point was the fact that paul says much much more to christians about their own morality and behavior – as opposed to some effort to change someone else’s behavior and morality.

    paul does not expect to legislate a christian morality upon unbelievers. where he did address sin he did so on the context of a person’s need for a savior… not to win a culture war

  8. September 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Just some notes:

    The man at the pool of Bethesda and Nicodemus were Jews, not unbelievers, and the woman at the well was a Samaritan (which meant that her holy book was the Torah) and was obviously seeking to know God, so using them as prooftexts is apples vs. oranges.

    The more apt comparison was Paul on Mars Hill in Athens. The #1 command obeyed by the religious Jews was to worship no other Gods, and for Paul (a trained religious Jew), the most obvious lesson to teach the pagans in Athens would have been against idolatry. But instead of “confronting their sin in love” – to make non-Christians act like Christians – he said “I notice you are very religious, and you have an altar to an unknown God. Let me tell you about Him.” We have no record of Paul ever confronting the idolatry of the pagans in the Roman provinces. In fact, we have witnesses to him specifically NOT speaking against the gods of the people.

    We have no examples in Scripture of Jesus or Paul or the Apostles trying to change the laws of Rome – or local laws – to make pagans act like Christians. We don’t even have a record of them trying to make potential converts act like Christians before they could become Christians! The confrontations with sin we see in the Gospels and the Epistles are all with Jews and/or Christians, not unbelievers.

  9. September 7, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    However, there are many other rules that apply to all men (or people, if you prefer) as creations of God. Here we find many things that are included in the laws of almost all nations (laws against murder, robbery, etc). I think that laws against homosexual marriage, abortion, and some other modern issues fall into the latter category. It seems to me a straw-man argument to use the old “trying to make non-Christians live like Christians.”

    Actually, the rules that “apply to all men” (which Paul references as being written on men’s hearts) are somewhat codified under the notion of “Natural Law” (about murder, self defense, protection of property, legal contracts, perjury, etc.) and not “Moral Law” (which would include sexual sin, ceremonial laws, idolatry, etc.). The concept of Natural Law (as defined by philosophers from Plato to Cicero) is what most nation-states codified, not Moral Law.

    Now, you might argue that Noaic Law applies to all of mankind, but again that is considered Moral Law, and not Natural Law – it is not expected that pagan nations will follow Moral Law, and the Jews of the OT through Jesus did not lay out any expectation in this regard.

    In reality, we would probably be better off if the State was not involved in the marriage business, since marriage is a sacrament of the church, first and foremost. Ideally, I would agree with the Libertarians who argue that the church should marry who they wish and the State should determine its requirements for legally binding contracts between individuals.

    Abortion can easily be viewed under the purview of natural law (the protection of innocent life) rather than moral law (based on a religious sanctity of life). Our other areas of moralizing in the public square (like battles over Creation/Evolution, homosexual marriage, etc.), though, do nothing – if not less – to further the cause of Christ, because they’re simply making a point and not making a difference. It is not a straw man to say that these fall under the category of us trying to force non-Christians to act like Christians.

    Every year in Ephesus, during the ministry of Paul and the later ministry of John, tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands, depending on which scholars you believe) of babies were taken outside the city gates and left on the ground to die of exposure. The ones who survived were those picked up by slave traders (we even have copies of their manuals on how to recognize which infants will make the best slaves). This was a direct result of the cult of Artemis/Diana in the city. Additionally, there was a great deal of perverse sexual sin and mutilation associated with this cult. Even so, Paul is recognized as having never spoken against Diana, and we have no record of he or John trying to shut down Artemis worship or its associated practices. John’s exile to Patmos was a result of his refusal to worship Caesar as god – not blasphemy against the gods of Ephesus.

    If we read Paul’s letters, we learn that God gave men (people) over to their evil desires, with the hopes that they would be convicted and repent. It seems like we’re too afraid or faithless to allow God to do His job and the Holy Spirit to act (convicting the hearts of the lost) that we figure we must at least force them to act in accordance with the laws of the God they don’t believe in. Why on earth we have become known as a group that condemns homosexuals when we divorce and shack up and commit other sexual sins in similar proportions as unbelievers is the height of Phariseeism.

    It seems to me that if we could get Christians to act righteously – in their own personal behavior and their compassion for their neighbors – that we would make far more of a difference than any proposition “preserving marriage” or School Board decision including Creationism/ID in the local curriculum, etc. would achieve.

    Is homosexual activity a sin? Certainly. Is it our job, as Christians, to prevent non-Christians from engaging in sinful behavior? Nope. We can make this a hill to die on and be perfectly right in the point we are making. But in doing so, if it diminishes our witness for the Gospel, is it really wise? I doubt it.

    I’ve never voted for a Democrat in a general election in the 25 years I’ve been eligible to vote, and I doubt I ever will. (I might vote for a Libertarian someday, but that’s another story.) Even so, it would be a pity for any one political party (or country) to become exclusively associated with Christianity – because it makes Christ much smaller than He is, and the actions of the party then reflect on Him, as well. I will never vote to legalize “gay marriage” (or whatever they choose to call it), but – like Rick Warren – you will never find me supporting stadium rallies to prevent it from being allowed in my state.

  10. Keith Fillinger
    September 8, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    The culture wars are a product of the confusion of political conservatives who happen to be Christians and who mistakenly equate their own positions on various issues with a Biblical mandate to coerce the general society into behaving in a manner that conforms to their skewed views. As an example consider capital punishment. Many Christians today are guilty of a major inconsistency in their thinking concerning the issues of life and death. While proclaiming the sanctity of life in their opposition to abortion, they support the degradation of life by championing capital punishment. Calling themselves pro-life while seeking to protect the unborn, they lose much of the impact of their banner by failing to protect the unloved. The absence of consistency in this regard is too glaring to ignore. It probably results from a failure to evenly apply the word of God to both issues.
    There are many reasons to explain the support given to capital punishment by its defenders. Perhaps the most prominent is an overriding fear of crime and/or criminals. This was clearly demonstrated with the sharp impact of the “Willie Horton” ads in the presidential election campaign of George Bush. In addition, there are those who feel that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime while others believe it is simply right and just to insist on a major payment for a major wrong. Indeed, some Christians go so far as to claim God demands it! Their desire to be His avenging agent is greater than their desire to be His servant of mercy. Unfortunately, some merely want revenge.
    One might ask, “What difference does it make how I feel about capital punishment? It doesn’t really matter.” But in a democracy it does matter what we think because our thoughts control our votes which, in turn, influence public policy. We are called to be “salt” and “light” in our societies and doing so is made easier and, therefore, takes on added significance, in a democratic country.(Matthew 5:13-16) We help to set the moral tone of the nation by both our actions and our votes. And as Christians we base our morality squarely on God’s word.
    Even a casual reading of the Old Testament reveals that the laws God gave to the Israelites included capital punishment. For many Christians that is enough. They claim this authorization as God’s endorsement of the practice and claim further its universality in time. Hence, they say, all right-thinking Christians have a duty to insist on the use of the death penalty in the societies in which they live. On the surface their case seems sound. But we must not treat such an important issue so casually.
    Consider the story of Cain. He was guilty of history’s first recorded murder. It was premeditated; it was his own idea; the victim had not wronged him; he knew it was sin; he did it anyhow. He then lied to God and disclaimed any responsibility. As far as we know he never repented. And what was God’s response? He declared that Cain was guilty of the sin of murder; He banished him from society; and He became Cain’s protector.
    Cain had quickly realized that just as he, a man, was willing to take human life, others, angry and seeking revenge, would surely take his. In his despair, but without contrition, he called on God to remedy his predicament. God responded by granting what amounted to a safe conduct pass by placing a mark on Cain. Its purpose was to warn all who would see him that God considered human life, even that of the murderer, Cain, so precious that no mortal would be allowed to take it. Indeed, God promised severe punishment for any violation of Cain’s right to life.
    How odd God’s actions must seem to those who support capital punishment. God had a perfect opportunity to establish, once and for all, the principle of an eye for an eye; to state clearly and “on the record” that such was His will. He didn’t do that. Some would argue that He did so later and, therefore, it makes no difference that He failed to do so with Cain. They overlook, however, one of the great truths about God: He is unchanging -— the same yesterday, today, and always.(1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 102:27; James 1:17) It was man who changed.(Genesis 6) Men became increasingly wicked; so much so that God decided to, in a sense, start over. But man was still imperfect and Noah was told:” Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”(Genesis 9:6)
    If that statement was the only one to be considered, the issue could be concluded. But in my Bible it appears on page 18; my Bible continues to page 1950, and taking the whole counsel of God is important. For example, we read in Matthew 19 that some Pharisees questioned Jesus about the matter of divorce. Jesus had told them that divorce was wrong in spite of the fact that the Law of Moses permitted it. He pointed out that God, the Creator, had intended for two to become and remain one; but due to the hardness of their hearts the practice of divorce was instituted. God’s nature had not changed —— this was merely an accommodation to man’s spiritual state. So it is with the death penalty.
    Sometimes in reading the Old Testament we forget that the Israelites were a nation and, as such, needed rules to govern their behavior. At times we are tempted to equate the nation of Israel with either our own nation or the church. When we read the various rules God prescribed for them and their society we think perhaps these should apply to our fellow citizens and/or our fellow Christians. This is easily done because we can envision a better country or church if only everyone would comply with whatever regulation we find enticing. What church treasurer has never thought about how much easier his job would be if all members were required to tithe? But America is not the new Israel and the church is not bound by the Law.
    Old Testament laws called for the death penalty for each of the following: murder(Numbers 35:16-21), adultery(Leviticus 20:10), incest(Leviticus 20:11,12,14), bestiality(Leviticus 20:15,16), sodomy(Leviticus 20:13), promiscuity(Deuteronomy 22:21), rape of a betrothed virgin(Deuteronomy 22:25), blasphemy(Leviticus 24:16), kidnapping(Deuteronomy 24:7), witchcraft(Exodus 22:18), offering human sacrifice(Leviticus 20:2-5), striking or cursing one’s father or mother(Leviticus 20:9), disobedience to parents(Deuteronomy 21:18-21), Sabbath desecration(Numbers 15:32-36), prophesying falsely or propagating false doctrines(Deuteronomy 13:1-10), sacrificing to false gods(Exodus 22:20), refusing to abide by the decision of the judge and/or priest(Deuteronomy 17:12).
    How is it possible to claim a Scriptural mandate to execute offenders in some of the above categories and not all? And what father would want to see his daughter marry her rapist merely
    because she was not engaged when attacked?(see Deuteronomy 22:28,29) Clearly, modern Christians are not interested in being subject to the Old Testament legal code.
    Admitting this, those who uphold the practice of capital punishment turn for support to the thirteenth chapter of Romans. “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment to the wrongdoer.”(Vv. 1-4) Several questions are answered in these verses:
    Are Christians to obey their governments? Yes, (for exception see Acts 5:29)
    Why? Because governments have been established by God for our welfare.
    How do they help us? They maintain peace and order. May they use force to do so? Certainly.
    And this is the key point: force is sometimes necessary to restore tranquility so that people may live in safety without fear of loss of life. The state is called on to secure and uphold life —— not to terminate it. We know, as Paul did, that a police officer may have to kill to prevent harm from coming to the innocent. But who would condone the execution of the one arrested on the way to jail? Should we pardon the officer for slaying his handcuffed prisoner after the threat had passed? These verses make it clear that the state has a right to punish any person who violates the law. But there is no reference to what penalties should be enforced. The propriety of the death penalty simply is not mentioned.
    We read in Deuteronomy 25:3 that giving a criminal more than forty lashes degrades him. Doesn’t the death penalty degrade its victims even more? Are we not tempted to see those being put to death as little more than animals? Is that right, or healthy? “Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my 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: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”(Romans 12:17-21) Jesus was subjected to capital punishment. Was justice done? And what was the motivation of His accusers? Are mistakes still made when we condemn someone to die?
    We’ve all heard it said that we are to hate the sin, but
    love the sinner. Can we claim that the death penalty is an expression of our love?(l Corinthians 16:14) If taking a life is wrong, then how can Christians support it? Compassion for the sinner in no way diminishes our sympathy for the one sinned against (or their family).
    Some would argue that it’s not human nature to forgive those who commit great crimes. That is true -— but it is God’s nature to do so. “You have heard that it was said,’ Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”(Matthew 5:43-48; 6;14,15) We are called to be like Christ, called out and away from the world’s passions. He expects it.(Ephesians 4:17-24) Fear, anger, hate, a desire for revenge —— all of these must be rejected.(Ephesians 4:31) The Christian’s view of life has at least two parts: earthly and eternal. We say that the unborn die sinless and, therefore, are welcomed into Heaven. Yet, we know that if they were allowed to live that all would sin and many would perish. Should we then encourage abortions so that grace might abound? Of course not! When we oppose abortion we do so on the basis of the sanctity of God-created human life. When we engage in capital punishment we extinguish human life on this earth and deny any additional opportunity for the one executed to gain eternal life in Heaven. Perhaps the underlying motivation for those who insist on death as punishment in this life is their fear that God will somehow “let them off.” “But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord, Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”(Ezekiel 18:21-23) “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. But the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”(2 Peter 3:8,9) That is the kind of God we have -— and the kind we are to emulate.
    “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”(Matthew 7:12) Knowing what we do about the judgment yet to come, can any Christian honestly say that if he were on death row he would prefer execution to a continued life that holds the
    possibility of salvation? And if we would prefer such an opportunity, can we in good conscience deny it to others?
    And what of the one who is spared? If he accepts a new life in Christ, he may spend his remaining years ministering to those who are still as he once was: unsaved and unloved. Having been forgiven so much, his joy should be great and his witness powerful. Surely, such a person could be called pro-life in every sense of the term —- as all Christians should! “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”(Colossians 3:1-4) Amen.

  11. Brett
    September 8, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    First, I would commend the spirit of Mr. Boyd’s article. Christians should be peacemakers. Followers of Christ should avoid foolish controversies.

    The problem I have with the article is a matter of reasoning.

    Mr. Boyd calls for a cease fire to the culture war because it has been a disaster for the church. Two questions: 1) What do you mean by culture war? Biblical Christianity has always been at war with popular culture. Therefore, to preach the Gospel necessarily means to engage in a battle with a fallen culture.
    2) What is the basis for concluding the culture war has been a disaster for the church? Mr. Boyd’s conclusions are based on pragmatic and short-sighted assumptions. In other words, the only way to come to his conclusion is to assume that winning and losing the culture war is based on immediate outcomes we can see. Using those assumptions, 400 years of slavery in Egypt were a disaster for God’s scheme of redemption, and Paul’s first 14 years after conversion were a disaster for his spiritual leadership influence.

    As Tolkien makes clear in “Lord of the Rings,” we fight for lost causes because sometimes lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for.

    The next weakness is the article is the assumption that the problem was that conservatives preached morality. Really? First, what evidence is there to support that they were preaching morality and not Jesus? This is classic straw man building.

    Ultimately, while Mr. Boyd’s spirit is well-aligned to Christ, the reasoning in his article doesn’t flow.

  12. September 9, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Brett,

    Part of the problem is that the “culture war” the church (in America) has been caught up in has defined the church in ways it ought not be defined.

    In the eyes of society:

    1) It has become aligned with a single political party (and thus, when that political party is out of favor with the public, it shines poorly on the church).

    2) It is primarily focused on telling everybody (Christians and non-Christians) how they have to live, even though many of its visible leaders fail to live up to that standard (Catholic priest scandals, Haggard, Swaggart, Bakker, etc., etc.).

    3) It is primarily focused on issues of sexual morality and opposition to “science”.

    What society, in general, does NOT see in the church is the overriding virtue of Christ:

    Love.

    Because that takes too long, it’s too hard and it’s under-appreciated. It is far easier to “make a point” (and be totally right in the point you make) than to live in humility and love.

    When the plagues ravaged the Roman empire, most pagans fled the cities, leaving the sick (including their family members) behind. The Christians – who had zero political power or influence – stayed behind, caring for the sick – including the sick pagans abandoned by their families!

    It was this type of behavior that, in less than a few hundred years, led to Constantine declaring Christianity the official religion of Rome (which did have its own problems, but also speaks to the power of the love shown by the early church). In fact, when his later successor, Julian the Apostate, tried to reinstate the pagan religions of Rome, he utterly failed because his “churches” couldn’t compete with the love and generosity of the Christians.

    (While I agree with Keith’s sentiments (are you related to Kent?), I would note that there is biblical support for the use of deadly force and capital punishment, but that our justice system doesn’t always meet the standard that would be supported. Even so, I don’t think this is an issue the church should be seen as “leading the way” or taking a political position on.)

  13. Neil
    September 9, 2011 at 11:33 am

    “…what evidence is there to support that they were preaching morality and not Jesus?”

    the very public opposition to silly animated mythical creatures b/c one is gay – springs to mind.

    In general I think Boyd’s point is still being missed. While I may not be so quick to agree that “Christians have allowed [Satan] to reshape the church of Jesus into a conservative political action committee…” – that is in fact what it became, for the most part.

    Fortunately that is changing.

  14. Lance Alter
    September 13, 2011 at 10:06 am

    1. To Keith–the taking of innocent human life is wrong. It’s “thou shall not murder,” not, ” thou shall not kill.” The inconsistency comes from liberals who think it’s wrong to execute a serial killer, but okay to murder an innocent baby. It’s hard to see how politically conservative Christians are wrong in opposing abortion and homosexuality. I think I read that in some book someplace. Oh yeah, now I remember…it was in the Bible.
    2. Kelly Boyd writes, as if it were fact, that “gay marriage will be legal in all 50 states in our lifetime.” I think that is far from certain. I get the impression that maybe she’s fine with that possibility.
    3. The idea that Christians shouldn’t preach morality is very intersting. It seems to me that morality is preached quite often in scripture. The ten commandments come to mind.
    4. Kelly Boyd says that Jesus and Paul didn’t preach morality!! So what was it in Matthew chapter 5 when Jesus spoke about murder, adultery, divorce, etc. ? And what about Paul in 1 Cor. 5: 9, 10? Looks like a pretty good moral list to me.
    5. Culture wars. Well, sometimes an issue is so fundamental and basic that Christians should place that above other political issues. For example, slavery was such an issue. Surely, no Christian should have supported any politician who favored slavery. Today, how can a Christian support politicians who support abortion? Incredible.

  15. September 13, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Lance,

    I think that you miss that Kelly defines “preaching morality” as preaching moralism. Defining the difference between the Gospel and the holiness to be practiced by believers (which is what Jesus and Paul preached) and moralism is actually something most Calvinists get right (even if the miss the boat on so many other topics). To wit, Al Mohler (who could never be described as liberal in either theological or political dimensions) defines moralism as:

    one of the most seductive false gospels is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this — the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior.

    Sadly, this false gospel is particularly attractive to those who believe themselves to be evangelicals motivated by a biblical impulse. Far too many believers and their churches succumb to the logic of moralism and reduce the Gospel to a message of moral improvement. In other words, we communicate to lost persons the message that what God desires for them and demands of them is to get their lives straight.

    Now – point-by-point:

    1) While I do disagree with Keith on capital punishment (see the link I posted), there is a case to be made that most death-row cases do not meet the biblical evidentiary requirements for its imposition. Also, the allowance of the death penalty in the OT should not, necessarily, be taken as a mandate for civil authorities to implement it.

    Regarding abortion, homosexuality, etc. – you (and others) seem to be making this an issue of “you’re either an activist against abortion/homosexuality/evolution OR you support abortion/homosexuality/evolution”. It is more nuanced than that – One need not be an activist against something to vote against it. Just because we’re right on an issue doesn’t mean that we need to make everyone else agree with us on it.

    On the issue of abortion, I do believe that – when asked – the church should come down on the side of life, because murder is not something we ought tolerate – whether under moral or natural law.

    On the issue of homosexual practice, I believe the church ought to remain silent when it comes to general public statements on the matter, but when a Christian individual or family is directly dealing with it, we should be firm in what the Bible says on the topic. It is not our calling, though, to make non-Christians practicing homosexuality to stop doing so.

    On the issue of Creationism/Nativity Scenes/etc., it is not our calling to make non-Christians ascribe to our beliefs. Note Peter’s instructions to the church:

    Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

    It’s not about telling the non-Christian world around us how they should live (moralizing), but about us submitting to God and living lives which are a contrast to the non-Christians around us.

    2) I wouldn’t ascribe any motive (positive or negative) to Kelly’s observation – I’ve heard many make that observation. And my response is “why should we expect non-Christians to not live opposed to the behavior expected of Christ’s followers?”

    3) The Ten Commandments were written to the Jewish people, not to all men. They do not preach morality – they are part of a covenant on how God expects those whom He has saved and who follow Him to act. (I’d even note that the Ten Commandments, as part of the Mosiac Law, aren’t even expected of Christians – See Acts 15 and Acts 21. Unless you’re a Seventh Day Adventist or a Messianic Jew, I’m also doubting that you honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.)

    4. In Matthew 5, Jesus is preaching to an audience of Jewish believers in God, not to a crowd of Gentiles. In 1 Cor 5, Paul is dealing with sin inside the church,/i> And since you brought it up, here’s Paul’s advice in 12-13 “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” Paul’s advice in all of 1 Cor 5 is that the church should manage its own moral behavior and leave the world to act like the world.

    5) You’ve again conflated support with activism. I don’t see Kelly telling us who to vote for, and I would never vote for someone who supports abortion. Even so, there is a difference between “supporting” a politician and being an activist for/against issues as a church.

  16. Brett
    September 13, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Are the issues the writers are concerned about fundamentally Biblical issues or “merely political” issues? The Bible clearly teaches that the church and the state are two separate governing authorities. Their purposes are different (the church=salvation; the state=order in society). Their means to accomplish those purposes are different (the church=grace; the state=justice/punishment, see Romans 12 & 13).

    However, God is sovereign over all. His Truth speaks to both the church and the state.

    The linguistic slight of hand that confuses many (and is demonstrated in this comment stream) is to label something “political” and then proclaim it “out of bounds” for Christians. For instance, are homosexuality and abortion political issues or Biblical issues?

    For those who view such issues as Biblical, there is a conviction that the Bible defines what it means to apply love to those issues. Those who view such issues as political argue that it is wiser to abandon these issues to the secular public square.

    To summarize:
    1) It does not honor Christ to make Christianity equal to any political party. Christ and the Bible are bigger than any political party.
    2) God’s sovereignty does not stop outside the political realm. God’s definition of “love your neighbor” is not inclusive of everything except politics. God’s Truth and Love speak into every realm.
    3) No person or party has a monopoly on exactly HOW God’s Love and Truth speak into every political issue.
    4) Followers of Christ carry a responsibility to influence in this world so that God is honored in every way (even in the political realm). Abdicating our responsibility to be “light” is sin, too (James 4:17).

  17. Lance Alter
    September 14, 2011 at 10:36 am

    It seems to me that those disagreeing with what I wrote are making statements that would have excused, in the 19th century, voting for politicians who favored slavery. As I wrote, abortion is such a fundamental issue, a matter of life and death, that it needs to be abolished just as slavery needed to be abolished. To say that we shouldn’t worry about laws and taking sides on political issues is to ignore the fact that the Democratic party today is the party of abortion rights, just as it was the party of slavery. As a Christian, I can’t ignore that, nor do I think that we should just be concerned about living moral lives, but need to be concerned about protecting the innocent.

  18. September 14, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Brett,

    1) Agreed.

    2) Nobody’s saying that God is not sovereign over the political realm. He is. Even so, the calling of the church is not to change the political realm so that it enforces Christian morals for all people. If God is sovereign over the political realm, trust Him with it and stop making the church the megaphone for the imposition of Christian morals and teachings upon the non-Christian world. When it does so, it is no longer a megaphone for the Gospel.

    3) Agreed.

    4) Straw man. Influence comes through action/interaction and making a difference, not through trying to make a point about what is (or is not) sin. You really need to go back up and listen/watch the Andy Stanley link above.

  19. September 14, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    It seems to me that those disagreeing with what I wrote are making statements that would have excused, in the 19th century, voting for politicians who favored slavery.

    I think you need to re-read the comments, then, because that’s not what is being said. There is a wide difference between being an activist for a position and voting for a position.

    The cause of the church should be the advancement of the Gospel – in making disciples of all men. (Noting that discipleship is belief and action.) Period.

    Individuals in the church should vote their consciences. No politician is perfect, nor does any politician hold positions that are all 100% congruent with Scripture. When people vote, they try to weight these values and determine who best will represent those values. Sometimes that means that Christians will disagree on which of those trade-offs is most important. And that’s OK – because the church doesn’t exist to exert political power. It exists to advance the Gospel. No more, no less.

    As I wrote, abortion is such a fundamental issue, a matter of life and death, that it needs to be abolished just as slavery needed to be abolished.

    I agree that it should be eliminated. The only true way to eliminate it, though, is to change the hearts of the people, not to change the laws that allow them to sin.

    The Civil War ended the formal practice of slavery, but it was 99 years later until the force of law was really even put behind the CW’s outcome, and even then it did not change the hearts of the people. Only now, 50 years later, do I think that we’re really even reaching that point, and that has come through the actions of living together as a community.

    It is not the place of the church to force the country to make abortion illegal. In fact, if the church had been taking care of the young women turning to abortion in the latter 20th century – rather than ostracizing and shaming them – SCOTUS probably would never have needed to act. The proper role of the church in the abortion debate is to save one young woman at a time and save the young men who are putting them into those situations.

    But that’s too slow for us, and we impatiently demand prohibitive action now. It is better that the law never changes if it’s overturning would result in the church once again turning a blind eye to the women who seek abortions. Rather, it should be our aim that what the law allows would become irrelevant.

  20. Lance Alter
    September 16, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Chris–You say that the cause of the church should be the advancement of the gospel–period. In reading the various NT letters to the churches, it is clear to me that there are all sorts of things that churches should be doing. There is worship, caring for people with needs, and so many other things that it seems incorrect to me to indicate that it’s only about evangelism.
    Of course, outlawing slavery didn’t change all people’s hearts, but it did do one thing–it ended slavery! That was pretty important and was worth doing. If we had never outlawed slavery and just tried to change people’s hearts, there would still be those who would be slaveowners.
    You say we shouldn’t outlaw abortion, but just work to change people’s hearts. Unfortunately, we’ll never change 100% of people, so we still need to protect the innocent. Are you opposed to laws against theft and murder, thinking that we should just seek to change people’s hearts so they won’t steal and murder? Once again, I’m all for making these actions illegal; I don’t want to just depend on changing people’s hearts about those things.

  21. September 16, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    You say that the cause of the church should be the advancement of the gospel–period. In reading the various NT letters to the churches, it is clear to me that there are all sorts of things that churches should be doing. There is worship, caring for people with needs, and so many other things that it seems incorrect to me to indicate that it’s only about evangelism.

    You misunderstand me, then – all of those things are part of the Gospel (which is not only an evangelistic message, but a way of living as part of the Kingdom of God/Heaven). But notice that the things you list are not about exercising the political power of the world (kosmos). Jesus stated in several ways that this kingdom is not of this kosmos. This Greek word, kosmos, which we translate “world” is the power structure and methods of the systems which manage the world. We do not advance his Kingdom by using political power to mandate it.

    Of course, outlawing slavery didn’t change all people’s hearts, but it did do one thing–it ended slavery! That was pretty important and was worth doing. If we had never outlawed slavery and just tried to change people’s hearts, there would still be those who would be slaveowners.

    Perhaps you should watch the recent movie, The Help, which depicts our society about 50 years ago, where “slavery” had been outlawed a century earlier by was still functionally intact. Just because the practice of slavery was outlawed didn’t mean that the hearts of men changed and they treated people of different skin color as human beings.

    Had the church been doing its job in the 1800’s, the churches in the south (and parts of the north) would have made the clear distinction between the biblical instructions for those living in slavery and the lack of biblical mandate for the institution, itself. In doing so, the Civil War and its ongoing centuries of aftermath would have been unnecessary.

    What you are describing is the way of the world which says “the end justifies the means”. And that is not the way of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom does not come through the exercise of violence or political intrigue. Certainly we should elect men and women who fear God and seek to do His will. Even so, out means of bringing Christ to the world is not through the laws and systems of the world.

    You say we shouldn’t outlaw abortion, but just work to change people’s hearts.

    Go reread what I wrote. I did not say that abortion should not be outlawed. I said that the church should not be the agent of action to outlaw abortion. HOWEVER – if the result of outlawing abortion would be that the church would go back to its neglect and shunning of young pregnant women and their children (born and unborn), then it would be better if the law is never changed.

    Unfortunately, we’ll never change 100% of people, so we still need to protect the innocent.

    You’ve missed my point – it is not the mission of the church to change the law. It is not the mission of the church to be politically active in changing laws which do not coerce its members to forsake God or holiness.

    God gave man free will to accept or reject Him. When it is the church which is seen as forcing people to lose their free will, it is the church which is also (correctly) seen as forsaking their faith in God. “Unfortunately, we’ll never change 100% of the people” is the voice of despair, not a voice of hope. I will choose the hope of Jesus Christ.

    Are you opposed to laws against theft and murder, thinking that we should just seek to change people’s hearts so they won’t steal and murder?

    This is a straw man argument. Natural law (mentioned by Paul, and in practice – at least since the Code of Hammurabi, two millennia before Christ) places the purpose of government to protect the life and property rights of its citizens. The church is not (and was not) the agent of force creating laws against theft and murder, and individuals who are punished for these crimes (correctly) see the State as the agent of their unfortunate consequences, not the church.

    Once again, I’m all for making these actions illegal; I don’t want to just depend on changing people’s hearts about those things.

    You don’t need to, because the government put in place by the people of this country – Christian and non-Christian – has instituted them. You don’t see the church advocating theft prevention while non-Christians push for theft legalization. All are in agreement.

  22. Steve Long
    November 14, 2011 at 1:14 am

    In the commands of Jesus which we call the great commission He says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 [a]Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you [b]always, even to the end of the age.” This, communion and love for God and our neighbor are the principle commands of our Lord and Savior. He prefaces the command with this declaration, “All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. He has that power at the present time. He then tells us what our mission in this world is. It is simple. We make disciples (not laws and legislation). We baptize them (not criminalize them), and we continue to teach them how to perpetuate the mission (follow His commands) . He concludes this with a starting promise. He (the One with all of the power) will be with us -in this mission- until the end of the age. There is no other mission that works to change hearts eternally. There is NOTHING IN THIS MISSION that has any thing to do with politics.
    At the beginning of His ministry Satan gave Jesus the opportunity to get in to the political mix when he offered the kingdoms of this world to Jesus if Jesus would bow down to him.. That is what bowing down to Satan is. It is using his methods and philosophies to change the world around us. Jesus declined this offer. At the end of His ministry Jesus was asked about His kingship by Pilate and He replied “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Jesus says in John 18:36 that the worlds kingdoms do things and use methods that the heavenly kingdom does not use. I wonder how many folk who believe that political action is pleasing to God have actually brought an unbeliever to Christ. I am unapologetic about the tone of this comment. Political action is pure disobedience and bowing down to Satan’s methods. The power that Jesus possesses has not been lent to political causes because He did not command us to be politically active. That is why the Church is in general decline.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe for Free!

Subscribe to gain free access to all of our digital content,
including our new digital magazine,
and we'll let you know when new digital issues are ready to view!