As we continue our discussion of style and substance in relationship to the Obama presidency, we need to realize that the sentiments and votes of the Christian community were split during the election. Many Christians voted for him and celebrated his election because of his winsome style and his call of what might best be described as kingdom virtues: hope, change, civility, new beginnings, and national unity. Others voted against him because they perceived that his substance – his policies – were being driven by an Atheistic-Materialistic paradigm and would thus be ruinous for the nation. I believe the former, while professing Christ, were not consciously voting from the framework of a Judeo-Christian worldview. The latter, many who profess Christ, may have been aware of his founding principles and thus concerned about the direction he would take the country and have reacted with hostility and lack of civility toward President Obama as a person.
How are we, who profess Christ, to respond?
Too often we who are Christians point the proverbial finger for our national problems away from ourselves and towards others. We say, “It is the Atheists, the Secularists, the Neo-pagan, the Animists who are causing these problems. They are the enemy!” However, when we look at God’s judgment in Scripture, it is usually against his people for not being his people, rather than a judgment against the world.
Christ’s body, the church, is the key to cultural and social transformation. But when the church is captivated by the culture she ceases to be prophetic, she ceases to be salt and light in the community. To say it simply, if the church is not discipling the nation, the nation will disciple the church. The reason our nations are in the shape they are in is because the church is not being the church.
It was Francis Schaeffer who, in a sermon titled The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way, exposed the real issue:
“The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism . . . nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us. All these are dangerous but not the primary threat. The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them” (Francis Schaeffer; A Christian View of Spirituality; pg. 43-44, emphasis mine).
Let’s stop pointing the finger at President Obama or any other ideology. It is time that we take a long hard look at ourselves.
Francis Schaeffer would speak of the need for the church to exhibit orthodoxy–orthodox theology and orthopraxy–orthodox practice, not one or the other. We need to both know the truth and practice the truth. Or to put it differently, just as Christ was the word made flesh, so the church is to incarnate the word of God in the midst of their own culture.
Have we been the conscience of the nation? Have we, in style and substance, represented Christ and his kingdom in our own communities?
-Darrow L. Miller
See the other posts in this series.
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JRiceFebruary 18, 2009 - 1:44 pm
” I believe the former, while professing Christ, were not consciously voting from the framework of a Judeo-Christian worldview.”
The broad generalization of this statement concerns me. I agree with a majority of what you’ve said in this series, Darrow. Many aspects of Obama’s rise to the Presidency seem like the cinderella-story to best all fairy tales. Yet, the reality remains that Christ is neither Republican nor Democrat. He does not subscribe to supply-side economics or a social-welfare state. Christ transcends the ideologies of any candidate. Substance truly -is- more important than style…and yet the administration of any other President would remain flawed by the pursuit of style and the insufficiency of authentic, integrity-based, God-honoring substance (when -hasn’t- that been true?). Sin’s grip remains over many aspects of creation….
While the attributes of two opposing ideologies have been described in this recent series, they seem to be the polar opposites of a spectrum. Certainly, there were many whose vote for Obama was cast out of “hostility and lack of civility toward [John McCain] as a person.” Others who voted for McCain “were not consciously voting from the framework of a Judeo-Christian worldview.” Are these merely a reverse-description of the two ideologies in this current blog series? …or are they alternate positions on the spectrum of theologically-minded, political ideology?
Praise be to God that he has given us what is necessary for life and godliness. His faithfulness endures through all generations!
darrow l. millerFebruary 19, 2009 - 6:54 am
Dear J Rice
Thank you for your comments. I agree with much of what you have said. Certainly the administration of any President has it’s strengths and weakness. All will be flawed at some or many points because we are both sinners and finite and we live in a fallen world.
And, I would agree with your point that people had mixed motives as they voted. Certainly this is always the case.
Likewise, Christ is not a Republican or a Democrat, Liberal or Conservative. In His person he transcends these categories. He is not from this world nor is his kingdom of this world. But, both Christ and his kingdom are for this world. Kingdom principles (i.e. sanctity of human life, freedom of conscience and human responsibility), and kingdom culture – TRUTH, GOODNESS and BEAUTY are transcendent. The question is not, does Christ support a particular political party, but which person in a party or which party best supports these transcendent principles. In a fallen world, no person or party will manifest all of God’s ordinances, but which is striving towards developing policies that reflect kingdom order. Clearly voting in British Parliamentary elections for William Wilberforce who saw slavery as a moral evil was different than voting for his opponent who supported the slave trade.
It is interesting that you phrase “the attributes of two opposing ideologies have been described in this recent series, they seem to be the polar opposites of a spectrum.” The attributes are not the opposite of a spectrum, they represent opposing kingdoms, the kingdom of Light and the kingdom of Darkness. As an example, does Creation belong to God and are we to be stewards of his Creation? Or does nature belong to man and man is free to exploit and even rape nature for his own conspicuous consumption? Or is nature a god to be worshiped? Each of these is a very different first principles and will lead to very different policies.
Man made in the image of God is a Biblical first principle. This grants inalienable rights to all human beings and leads to policies that support liberty for slaves and protection of life for the weak and broken. To consciously or subconsciously begin from the Darwinian assumption that human beings are the product of chance, leads to the demeaning of human life at all of its stages.
So indeed there are two different principles at work that will create two very different polices and inevitably two very different nations. While it is true that Christ transcends politics and political parties, his kingdom and its principles are for this world.
It behooves each citizen of any nation, whether a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, pagan or Atheist to consciously examine the first principles that they espouse and see the inevitable consequences of those principles in the policies that will shape their community and nation. Indeed, ideas have consequence!
JRiceFebruary 19, 2009 - 8:16 am
I absolutely agree with your statement:
“Man made in the image of God is a Biblical first principle. This grants inalienable rights to all human beings and leads to policies that support liberty for slaves and protection of life for the weak and broken. To consciously or subconsciously begin from the Darwinian assumption that human beings are the product of chance, leads to the demeaning of human life at all of it’s stages.”
I also agree that Obama’s action to allow for federal funding of abortions is not God-honoring and in opposition to these principles.
My hope is that you do not find me a pest, but someone who is genuinely wrestling with the core of what you’ve written in recent days. Again, I’m in agreement with virtually everything you’ve written, yet I struggle.
*chuckle* Perhaps to use the framework of style and substance: I wholeheartedly agree with the “substance,” that God reigns supreme as Lord of all creation. Scripture echoes the truth that “ideas have consequence,” when we read that “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45). But where does the style come into play?
To passively surrender her voice in any season of life, the Church fails to exist as the Kingdom of God. Christ had little audience with political practitioners (I am not arguing that Christians shouldn’t seek that). Yet, his message of hope, reconciliation, and power over sin was for anyone who would hear. The people for whom Jesus had little regard were the spiritual practitioners of the day. He didn’t seem too fond of how they trapped God in a little box of mathematical equations.
I don’t understand how abortion alone can be such an extreme deal-breaker within the majority of evangelical Christianity. As an adamant proponent of the sanctity of life (regardless of age or disability), I find myself in a world where declaring a stand with -any- political party, agenda, ideology, or platform is compromising (if not hazardous) to the foundation of my faith commitment. Abortion is ugly and egregious. God’s creation is also slaughtered in many other ways by so many people. Of course this doesn’t give credence to abortion, it declares the non-negotiable need for a Savior.
I am not attempting to sound fatalistic. I’m trying to find balance. Where do we draw the line between speaking truth with the loving, compassionate, discipline of God (Eph 4:14-16) and allowing the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sinful behavior (John 16:8-11)? The two -must- be inextricably intertwined…but how?
So I arrive at this place with a heavy heart in the same way I voted for Obama with a heavy heart. I confess, I am one who voted more against John McCain than for Barack Obama. I am certain that my discernment is not one hundred percent flawless, yet I believe I witnessed a barely-restrained rage in Senator McCain’s eyes as the candidates debated issues which were essential to our nation’s future. Honestly, I was more willing to risk being disappointed with Obama’s abortion history than I was willing to risk that McCain would lead us into World War III. Either would claim more lives than we have the authority to surrender.
Pardon my candid banter. I have no intention of being disrespectful or caustic toward your blog. I confess that am not pleased with President Obama’s choice regarding abortion funding. However, when it all boils down, my constantly-seeking-to-be-spiritually-sensitive heart is not convinced that God desires for my theologically-grounded mind to throw President Obama under the bus.
Thank you for your interaction.
darrow l. millerFebruary 20, 2009 - 8:15 am
Good Morning JRice
Please, there is no sense of your being a pest or disrespectful. There is no need to apologize.
I hear someone who is concerned and wants to engage in an honest dialogue. Our hope is that the Disciple Nations blog is a place where sincere people, who have a heart to see their nations transformed can wrestle with ideas and their application.
You have written “I don’t understand how abortion alone can be such an extreme deal-breaker within the majority of evangelical Christianity.” I cannot speak for the “majority” of the evangelical community, but only for myself. Abortion, is not the only thing that I have a concern for. I have a concern for the raping of the environment by a narcissistic people, the destruction of the family, the rise of corruption in the market place, etc. However for me, abortion is the tip of the iceberg. It lets one know that there is something larger below the surface.
Someone who promotes abortion is also likely to support many other things that are destructive of the community because of the underlying ideology that drives such a hideous act as killing the unborn or the new born as is the case of the practice of infanticide in our country.
Because ideas have consequences, more inhumanity and tyranny will come. Just look at the USSR under Stalin and Germany under Hitler. Their Darwinian social polices were the logical extension of an Atheistic ideology. And in the case of Germany, a startling 80% of the citizens were “church going” Christians. However, the church was asleep.
One of my most troubling moments was standing in an old English fort in Cape Coast, Ghana. This fort was a transhipment point for slaves being sent from Africa to America and the Caribbean. I had just stood in the dungeons below the fort where the slaves were housed in the most inhumane conditions while they waited for the slave ships. When we came out of the dark dungeons into the bright whitewashed courtyard of the fort, the tour guided pointed out a beautiful colonial building built a few feet above the dungeons. The guide pointed out that this was where “the church” met on Sunday morning for worship. On the wall of the building there was a plaque that said “Never Again!”
J, why do I relate this story? Because, today, the global church is too often disengaged from the problems of the brokenness of their community and nation. She too often disregards the institutional evil in her community and work place.
The church is not to be a warehouse for souls going to heaven. She is to be the embassy of the kingdom of God. And this needs to be manifest in our orthodoxy and orthopraxy. We are to be the people who stand for the stewardship of the Creation and the protection of human life. We should be challenging the degrading of women and sex slavery that exists in the USA and globally.
The success of the church is not measured by the size of her buildings, the numbers of her congregants or the “personal piety” of her members. No, her success is measured by the faithfulness of her service, her obedience to “all that I have commanded,” and the impact that she is having in her community.
J, I hear your internal struggle and deeply respect you.
We need to pray for President Obama, his family, his administration and for the nation.
We are at a crossroads as a nation. But, I am firmly convinced that the future of the nations lie more with the church than it does with the President or the Congress. It is the church that God has created to be the primary instrument of the transformation of a society. However, today, the church in America remains a slumbering giant. We need to prod her to wake up and be the church or the nation will suffer.
JRiceFebruary 20, 2009 - 9:45 am
“We are at a crossroads as a nation. But, I am firmly convinced that the future of the nations lie more with the church than it does with the President or the Congress. It is the church that God has created to be the primary instrument of the transformation of a society. However, today, the church in America remains a slumbering giant. We need to prod her to wake up and be the church or the nation will suffer.”
Amen. Well stated. Thank you for sharing your heart. I feel that I now have a much clearer understanding of how you’ve arrived at the subject of this current blog series.
I had never considered a person’s support of abortion as being the “tip of the iceberg.” Yet, as we look at the pattern of individuals’ choices, abortion does seem to be a reasonable indicator of a person’s Godly virtue (or lack thereof).
Thank you, also, for speaking both out of your intellect -and- your experience. I cannot imagine the weight of an experience such as the one you described in Cape Coast, Ghana.
Honestly, it excited me to read your blog this morning! Originally, I was frustrated while trying to figure out how you could have arrived at such a compelling series so early into President Obama’s administration. Today, I acknowledge with you that issues bearing serious repercussions (such as abortion) are telling indicators of a person’s heart motivation. Together, we have the opportunity to pray all the more fervently for our President’s surrender to the lordship and leadership of our great God and Father.
By the way, it’s “Jeremiah,” and although we’ve never met, we have a connection. Many years ago, you discipled a young girl’s family as they served the Lord in Romania. Today she is my wife. Thanks for your contribution to the solid foundation of her faith. Her family speaks highly of you, so I knew it would be safe to engage in this conversation.
KeithMay 20, 2009 - 10:54 am
“Too often we who are Christians point the proverbial finger for our national problems away from ourselves and towards others.”
It’s not just we as Christians who seek to point the finger at others. In fact, it’s part of our fallen nature to blame others (“It was the woman YOU gave me!”)
I commented on this on our ACWI blog:
Here’s a bit of what I said there:
“I have often wondered (sometimes aloud) why people tend to blame the president for any political actions they disagree with. I’ve thought “don’t they remember ANYTHING from their high school Civics courses? Don’t they realize that it’s the legislative branch – aka Congress – who creates the laws that they don’t like?. . .
‘The rise of the presidency was also aided by the rise of a modern media establishment. In an era of limited attention spans and shortened time for television news, it was easier for journalists to focus on the actions of one centralized, decisive figure—the President—than on the actions of a loose, decentralized, milling chamber of equals, like the Senate or House’ (Wikipedia quote)
. . . it’s easier to point the finger at one individual and blame ‘the Bush’ or ‘the Clinton’ administration” but also gives a further explanation: the media (specifically television) have led the charge in this overemphasis on the Executive Branch.
Disciple Nations AllianceMay 21, 2009 - 10:48 am
Thanks so much for your thoughts and response, Keith! Humans are certainly inclined to play the blame game.
Tim, Blog Admin