God, Man, and Society Part 1
In the Great Commandment of Matthew 22, we are taught to understand the importance of man’s relationship to God, and man’s relationship to man, and that man’s relationship to man is important to God, is prescribed by God and that we are called to relate to our fellow man, individually as neighbors, and corporately as society, according to certain specific principles laid down by God in His Word.
Many in history have understood this, and many in history have gotten confused, misguided and mistaken. Such errors have led many into obscure cults, self-imposed segregation from society, and at times an overwhelming (?) self-absorption.
I know of no one, today, who remains unconcerned about our world, nation, economy, personal security. Such concerns, regardless of beliefs, are together the universal common denominator of mankind, in our society and elsewhere. However, what people everywhere are struggling with is the question of what to do about such concerns. Among many of the leaders of our great nation are men and women who are Christian believers, we have large churches led by Christian believers, we have Christian people, or at least who profess such beliefs, in policy-making positions here and in numerous — not all – nations around the globe. Yet, it is undeniable that the voices of these Christian policy makers are dim in the address of such concerns from a policy perspective. As these voices dim, since power abhors a vacuum, we face the reality that so-called progressive thought is mounting a direct assault on Christianity. And we wonder why progressive thought threatens Christianity. It is because progressive thought embraces a virtually-unlimited governmental power and a no-holds-barred morality. Making the State larger, more intrusive in the lives of people, and making it more powerful as against the lives and rights and privileges of its citizens, requires a severe re-reading of the Word of God, indeed the redefinition of God Himself. But we know that our God, our Jesus, is the same yesterday, today and forever. He will not be remade, He will not be redefined. He will not be put in the box of those in power who think they are truly in control. They are not truly in control. Christianity itself puts limits on government and establishes moral boundaries. Consequently, we have the grim reality that, through the work of malicious, or misguided, or double-minded policy-makers, the light of Christ is dimming in the world, and in the policies of the governments of the world and our own nation. This is more than sad; it is sin in the world, the nation, the church and individual lives. It is the foundation today for a heart cry from II Chronicles 7:14, not just for our nation’s land, but for the land of the world!
One of the painful and deeply misguided teachings in the church for centuries has been what is called the “two-kingdom” analysis of God, man and society. It was first taught by St. Augustine (circa 400 AD), who taught that the church was the spiritual City of God, to be distinguished from the material City of Man. This teaching carried through the church for centuries, and even found favor with Martin Luther (circa 1525 AD). With attribution to Gary DeMar, in the Foreword to the republication in 2009 of The Establishment and Limits of Civil Government, an exposition of Romans 13: 1-7, “Two-kingdon social theory teaches that ‘heavenly things’ are directed exclusively by God’s redemptive grace through Spiritual Revelation while ‘earthly things’ are formulated by God’s common grace through Natural Revelation. In this ideal but naïve world, believers and unbelievers, because they are created in the image of God, can work together to construct society using common-ground features found in Natural Revelation and guided by reason. As long as most people believed in God, such a world was theoretically possible since Natural Revelation was interpreted, either consciously or unconsciously, by Special Revelation, the Bible.”
This at least theoretical compatibility of the two kingdoms perished in 1859, the nasty by-product of Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species, as evolution killed Special Revelation, the privilege of common grace, Natural Revelation, and the belief that there is a common humanity created in the image of God. Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually-fulfilled nihilist, living beyond “good and evil” (the title of Nietzsche’s first book, published in 1886).
As Francis Shaeffer has described it, nature – that which is known through reason – began to “eat up grace,” which is known through Spiritual, or Special, Revelation. Following Darwin’s lead, many leading theologians and Christian publishers by the end of WWII began to dismiss the possibility of Special or Spiritual Revelation in a material and evolving cosmos. Darwin unleashed modern day aetheistic science and created Modern Man in its image. Schaeffer has described Modern Man, not made in the image of God and not privileged by Special, or Spiritual Revelation: “If the unsaved man was consistent he would be an atheist in religion, an irrationalist in philosophy (including a complete uncertainty concerning ‘natural laws’), and completely a-moral in the widest sense.” The modern atheist and principal antagonist to the principle of Intelligent Design of the Universe, Richard Dawkins, asserts that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” In reality, Darwin, Richard Dawkins and other like-minded souls have rendered irrelevant the two-kingdom approach to God, man and society. This means we have experienced in my lifetime a real shift in worldview thinking.
Let us consider, again with attribution to Pastor DeMar as noted above, two examples, the Joker from Batman and Adolf Hitler:
- The Joker from Batman (The film, The Dark Knight, 2008): Bruce Wayne (Christopher Bale) tells Alfred (Michael Cain) that criminals are “not complicated,” we just need to find out what The Joker wants. You see, in a world where there is general agreement of an acknowledged universal moral order, the actions of criminals always made sense. Even criminals knew they were wrong. The Joker is different, now. He operates from a different point of view, even an anti-point of view. Alfred tells Bruce that “some men just want to watch the world burn.” When Batman tried to beat the Joker into telling his plans, the Joker cackled with glee at the pain and taunted Batman: “you have nothing to frighten me with.” You see, the Joker lives in a world that (thank you Nietzsche and Darwin) is beyond good and evil. He does not, cannot, fear God; rather he denies the existence of God. Why should the Joker fear that which he does not believe exists? There cannot be a two-kingdom approach to God, man and society for Modern Man who lives – in America and elsewhere – in the Joker’s world.
- Adolph Hitler: Hitler used the two-kingdom approach to Christian analysis of God, man and society to his great political advantage. As explained by Richard Demarest in 1982, in his study of General Revelation, “A Majority within the state church (known as the ‘German Christians’) unwittingly or otherwise embraced the new national religion, founded not on the Word of God but on the divine will allegedly embedded in the natural order. Emerging from this fatal exchange came a semi-Christian natural religion (some would say a new paganism) in which the church became a servile instrument of Nazi policy . . . .!” In other words, Hitler knew he could get away with a lot of his oppressive policies because a majority of German Christians did not believe that it was permissible, in God’s view, to bring the Bible to bear in realms they considered to be outside the reach of its limited jurisdiction. Politics was considered to be official neutral territory – a sort of religiously demilitarized zone. They held to these principles of Augustine and Luther, and the “theologians” and accepted a complete misreading of Romans 13: 1-7; and related Scripture, to conclude that those who happened to be in political power were God’s ministers, regardless of the good or evil of their policies, and that such political ministers, and such governmental policies, were off-limits, beyond the limited jurisdiction of God and the church, to call any of them into accountability.
As explained by Richard V. Pierard, “German Lutherans made a strong bifurcation between the realm of public and private concerns . . . . Religion was the domain of the inner personal life, while the institutional and external, the public, so to speak, belonged to the worldly power. Redemption was exclusively the province of the church, while the law, determinative for external conduct of human affairs, was solely the province of the state. Religion was a private matter that concerned itself with the personal and moral development of the individual. The external order – nature, scientific knowledge, statecraft – operated on the basis of its own internal logic and discernable laws.” (1978).
In the Hitlerian experience, while Christians might oppose Nazi policies on a personal level, they were conditioned by the public education system, the government, and even the German Church itself, to believe that not only were they impotent, but that they were specifically instructed by the Bible to avoid any effort to alter or oppose the policies of the government.
From the Hitlerian experience, the progressives in America have been emboldened. We hear the steady cry now of separation of church and state, and are told that this so-called constitutional provision requires the silence and paralysis of the church in its voice, vote and feet on all social and political – so-called “external” issues, and that – in a great perversion of the Bible and the Constitution, only those progressive pastors and churches who are supportive of the politically powerful and their anti-Chritian point of view, may speak freely from the pulpit!
Where the Christian culture has gone wrong – and allowed the world and the nation to go wrong with it – is it getting stuck in salvation and in not choosing to believe that Jesus is – and should be – Lord of all life. Schaeffer figured it out; Paul McQuire ( a syndicated talk show host from California) who has thus quoted Schaeffer figured it out; Gary DeMar figured it out, and it is time for everyone to figure it out. In our church we have been preaching growth, maturity, obedience, self-discipline because we figured it out. In all of life it is the Lord’s way, by His grace and power and authority, or no way.
Yes, in the relationship of God, man and society, we have Matthew 22:21 (Jesus says, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”) and we have Romans 13 (in part, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. . . . “) In America, if we have a Caesar it is our Constitution, and that is based on the inalienable rights with which we have been endowed by our Creator God. And our Constitution recognizes its limits and assures the right of the voting people to
- express their grievances and to assemble for such purposes;
- vote out corrupt and oath-breaking officials;
- change existing laws – bad policy – through the legislative process.
As we will see in days and messages to come, there is no proper two-kingdom approach to the relationship of God, man and society; there is only a one-kingdom approach and God will ultimately make it so in the New Jerusalem, but we should be mindful, meantime, of our responsibility to treat every word and act as an act of war in the War of Holiness, and to try to make II Chronicles 7:14 the heart cry of every citizen of the world!
End Note 1: II Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”