Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: RELIGIOUS & POLITICAL LIBERALISM: The Evolving Theonomic World View

Friday, July 13, 2007

RELIGIOUS & POLITICAL LIBERALISM: The Evolving Theonomic World View

“17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) 20 For our conversation {citizenship} is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 3:17-21).

The vast majority of fundamental Baptists and most evangelicals are dispensationalists. That means we believe that, according to Scripture revelation, the immorality of the world and unbelief in God will increase in the “last days” before Jesus bodily returns in the air for His Church (all “born again” believers that lived from the Day of Pentecost to the end of the Church Age), there will be seven years of “tribulation” (progressive outpouring of God’s wrath) upon the earth after which Jesus will return to the earth with His “bride” (the previously resurrected/translated Church, now in glorified bodies) to establish the Davidic Throne and the Millennial (1,000 year) Kingdom on earth. This is known as the Premillennial view.

The vast majority of liturgical Christianity (sacerdotal and sacramental Christianity) holds an Amillennial view of future events. The word millennium is a Latin term meaning one thousand years. It comes from the root words mille, meaning thousand, and annum, meaning years. The word amillennial actually is a combination of Greek and Latin. In Greek, placing the letter “a” before a word negates the word. Amillennial would literally mean no-millennial. However, that is not the true position of most Amillennialists. Most Amillennialists believe there will be no literal reign of Christ on earth. For them, Christ’s reign is on a throne in Heaven over a Kingdom of hearts on earth. They believe the one thousand years of Scripture is just figurative and the Kingdom began with ascension of Christ to Heaven.

Therefore, central to this position is the denial of the literal reign of Jesus Christ upon the earth. There are two central divisions in this position. There are those who believe the prophecies relating to the millennium are being fulfilled presently on earth as Christianity subdues the world and ushers in a utopian theonomic society (this is the Augustinian position of Amillennialism; the theonomy is the governance of God’s laws and commandments through a State/International Church. Augustine’s term for this was the Holy Catholic Church.).

The vast majority of Covenant theologians (Replacement Theology) completely reject the idea of a literal return of Messiah to the earth to establish a literal Kingdom on earth. They disparage this belief saying it originates from historical Jewish fables and traditions regarding the coming of Messiah to establish a literal, political kingdom on earth where the nation of Israel will be the world power on earth.

Amillennialists have sought to usher in their utopian Kingdom on earth through Political Activism; seeking to institute the Laws of God within a society through the implementation of State Churches and Evangelism by Coercion. In doing so, they seek to have Christ reign on earth through the head (Vicar) of this State Church. Their goal is to do this in every country in the world. This is a Theonomic world view.

Historically, Baptist Pastors and fundamental Christians have been politically active in the arena of American politics. It was Baptist Pastors who were responsible for the now perverted laws restricting the involvement of government in the church or in the establishment of a state religion. Liberals have reinterpreted that Law and used it to establish an anti-Christ state Church of Secular Humanism.

Christians should be politically active. However it is critical to differentiate between being politically active and Political Activism. Being politically active is just being a good citizen and being a restraining force on evil until the rapture of the Church. Political Activism goes far beyond that. Political Activism is really another term for Theonomy. Theonomy is a worldview held by most Amillennialists. In the extreme, the Theonomist sees Political Activism as evangelism. For the New Evangelical, Political Activism evolves into a substitute for evangelism.

I think it important to interject here the difference between a Theonomic worldview and a Theocratic approach to evangelism. A Theonomy is a God governed society. We do not have that today, nor can we establish a Theonomy regardless of how hard we try. Establishing a Theonomy is not the mission of the church during the Church Age. That is the vision of the Amillennialists. (It actually will not take place until the Millennial Kingdom on earth.)

The Theonomist seeks to influence society by passing laws that are moral and that will restrain the forces of sin intent upon ushering a utopian kingdom of righteousness on earth (this is really nothing more than an evangelical form of Liberation Theology). This is the Theonomist’s central mission in life. Therefore his ministry involves him mainly in Political Activism with evangelism as his secondary mission in life (usually Political Activism totally replaces evangelism). This individual sees his mission in life as saving society rather then seeing souls saved. Of course every Christian should seek to influence government to pass moral laws that restrain evil and sin, but that is not his central mission on earth.

Some of the theological roots of Latin American Liberation Theology can be traced directly to the writings of certain European theologians. Three of the more notable of these are Jurgen Moltmann, Johannes Baptist Metz, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Without going into detail, Moltmann has suggested that the coming kingdom gives the church a society-transforming vision of reality as opposed to a merely private vision of personal salvation. Metz has emphasized that there is a political dimension to faith, and that the church must be an institution of social criticism. Bonhoeffer has issued a call to redefine religion in a secular context. His theology emphasizes human responsibility toward others, and stresses the value of seeing the world with “the view from below,” i.e. the perspective of the poor and oppressed. These philosophies are a critical part of theological liberalism’s influence on evangelical Christianity and part of what makes up New Evangelicalism.

New Evangelicals do not go as far as all of this in their evolving Evangelical Theonomic approach to the solution of sociological problems. New Evangelicals are usually drawn into this Theonomic worldview and its practices because they tend to cooperate with liberal Amillennialists. Since they join themselves to individuals with a Theonomic worldview, they end up participating in the Political Activism these people are involved in. This usually results in individual Christians substituting Political Activism for evangelism. At this point they really cease to be Evangelicals in a practical sense and become Theonomists.

A Theocratic approach to evangelism understands that God influences a society when He controls the hearts of individuals. The greater the numbers of hearts that are controlled by His Spirit, the greater influence those individuals will have on a society. Evangelism (as defined by winning souls and making disciples) becomes the central ministry of a Theocratist. His attempts to change the masses of society through Political Activism will prove to be unprofitable and reformational (as opposed to transformational).

A failure to differentiate between Political Activism and being politically active is what often leads well-meaning Christians down a road of fruitlessness and futility. The Christian Political Activist finds that he is alienating the very people he seeks to win to Christ and creates a Them and Us division in society. One can legislate morality, but one cannot force an unregenerate man to live morally. This is the very heart of the failure of our Criminal Justice System and the reason why we have over a 90% recidivism rate among hardened criminals. We cannot get a man who thinks like an animal to live like a saint no matter how moral our laws are. We can restrain him through social peer pressure and incarceration, but he will naturally do whatever he thinks he can get by with in the darkness.

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).

“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

“5 Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: 6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house” (Isaiah 42:5-7).

This evolving Evangelical Theonomic world view is quickly consuming the true evangelical mindset to the extent it is almost non-existent any longer. In this mindset Theology is no longer immutable. Gustavo Gutierrez, author of A Theology of Liberation, provides us with a representative methodology. Like other liberationists, Gutierrez rejects the idea that theology is a systematic collection of timeless and culture-transcending truths that remains static for all generations. Rather, theology is in flux; it is a dynamic and ongoing exercise involving contemporary insights into knowledge, humanity, and history (Post Modernism or Theological Fluid Constructionism).

Gutierrez emphasizes that theology is not just to be “learned,” it is to be “done.” In his thinking, “praxis” is the starting point for theology. Praxis (from the Greek prasso: to work) involves revolutionary action on behalf of the poor and oppressed and out of this, theological perceptions will continually emerge. Therefore, the main work of the Liberation Theologian is social reform, not evangelism. His ministry is to save society.

The Theonomic theologian must therefore be immersed in the struggle for transforming society and proclaim his message “from that point.” In this theological process, then, “praxis” must always be the first stage; “theology” is the second stage. Theologians are not to be mere “theoreticians,” but “practitioners” who participate in the ongoing struggle to liberate the oppressed. This is not a soteriological missional vision. It is sociological missional vision, i.e. a social gospel.

Salvation is viewed not primarily in terms of life after death for the individual, but in terms of bringing about the kingdom of God; a new social order where there will be equality for all. This is not to deny eternal life per se, but it is to emphasize that the “eternal” and the “temporal” “intersect” in liberation theology. This is in fact very similar to a Theonomic worldview.

“If, as the traditional formulation has it, history and eternity are two parallel (i.e., non-intersecting) realms, our goal within history is to gain access to eternity” (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, p 592).

“But if history and eternity intersect, ‘if salvation is moving into a new order . . . then we must strive against everything which at present denies that order.’” (Justo L. Gonzaliz and Catherine G. Gonzalez, Liberation Preaching, Nashville: Abingdon, 1980, p 24)

This type of pragmatism is at the heart of present day New Evangelicalism. Pragmatism tends to determine both the validity and meaning of truth based upon the ability of that truth to generate practical results. This pragmatism goes back to the philosopher William James (1882-1961) and has had enormous influence on both Liberal Theology and Evangelical Theology. It in fact may be a central contributor to the birth of New Evangelicalism.

“For his lectures [William James], the first one given August 27 [1899], James drew upon his familiar ‘Talks to Teachers,’ but at Berkeley he also gave a lecture to the Philosophy Union on ‘Philosophical Results,’ in which he first used the term ‘pragmatism’ for a theory of ‘truth’; namely, that the test of any concept is an answer to the question ‘What sensible difference to anybody will its truth make?’ In other words, the truth of a concept lies in its practical consequences when applied to a real, as opposed to a theoretical, situation in human life . . . James made it [pragmatism] a means of judging true from false by looking at results.” (William James by Gary Wilson Allen, The Viking Press, page 392)

Results became the criteria for evaluating the value of any given truth at any given moment in time (cultural relevancy). This has certainly been the criterion for much of what is done in the new Evangelical camp. The repeated cry seems to be, “Make the Bible relevant.” If a Bible truth is not relevant to man’s needs or producing the results they want, it is ignored or, at best, given a reduced place of importance.

Do we just need better laws? Christians look for a solution to the moral decline of our society in government. Has the Dispensation of Law taught us nothing? Israel had perfect law, the laws of God. Israel had a perfect theocratic government. Why didn’t it work? Because perfect laws and perfect government require perfect (spiritually mature) people to make them work. Law is irrelevant to unregenerate people. Isn’t that what Habakkuk 1:4 says? “The law is ignored and justice is unenforceable.”

The Bible puts every problem in life in the context of a worldview revealing a steady degeneration of truth. Because many Christians do not hold this worldview, they think the solution to this moral decline is Theonomy. Theonomy is a worldview that thinks Christians can establish the Kingdom on earth by forcing the moral laws of God upon a society.

Theonomy says, “If we can change society by changing government and moral law, we can change man.” That is the same message of the old social gospel wrapped in a new package. It didn’t work with that name on it and it won’t work with this name on it. If there is any hope of changing a society, it is through evangelism. However, if you have read the end of the Book, society will not be changed. Therefore, Christians need to understand they are not here to reform society. We are here on a search and rescue mission to help as many people as possible escape the “wrath to come.”

When we look at world history (past and future) in the context of God’s worldview, we see all circumstances of life in their divinely appointed place in the culmination of God’s universal world plan.

Preachers (and most Bible believing Christians) are by nature very zealous people. They want to see God’s will done. However, when people begin to think pragmatically rather than theologically, the application of Bible truths tend to produce purposes that lack a real Biblical mandate. When Christians think pragmatically, they tend to rationalize truth. They fail to apply solid hermeneutical principles. As a result they may interpret Scripture accurately, but apply their interpretation in a direction never intended by the text.

This is the difference between Biblical exegesis and eisegesis. The following statement from a book called Hermeneutics written by Bernard L. Ramm and Others (Baker Book House) clarifies the difference between hermeneutics and exegesis.

“It has been customary to specify hermeneutics as the theory of interpretation and exegesis as the application of the theory to the text.”

Exegesis is the exposition and critical explanation of a text or portion of Scripture seeking to arrive at the exact meaning of the text from the grammar, the context, the purpose of the book of the Bible in which the text lies and how the rest of Scripture compares with that text (inductively).

Eisegesis is a personal interpretation of a text of the Bible using and interjecting your own ideas into that text. This is the kind of Biblical interpretation we find in the Theonomic preaching of the Reclaiming America Movement.

I want to give two examples of eisegetical preaching that comes to us from two Bible texts coming from those holding to the Reclaiming of America philosophy (a Theonomic worldview). These two texts are II Chronicles 7:14 and Luke 19:13. First, let’s look at II Chronicles 7:14.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chronicles 7:14).

The failure to put this text into its historical context will result in making wrong applications of the text. First of all, let’s look at it in its whole context. This lies in the context of the dedication of the newly built Temple of God built by Solomon and the children of Israel. Solomon had just preached a sermon of dedication and than offered a prayer of dedication. The prayer was for the verification of the Davidic Covenant and the acceptance of the Temple built for God to dwell among His people (6:12-42).

The prayer of Solomon also expressed the willingness of the children of Israel to accept the conditions of the Davidic Covenant. II Chronicles 7:14 is part of God’s response to king Solomon and a confirmation to Solomon of the necessity to repent and return to the Lord should Israel fail to keep the conditions of the Davidic Covenant. God’s response comes to king Solomon and the children of Israel in the form of both a promise and a warning. II Chronicles 7:14 is the ‘if” response to the “if” problem of II Chronicles 7:13. Now let’s read the whole of God’s response and see if proper Biblical exegesis allows us to make the broad application that the Theonomists would have us to make.

“12 And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. 13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; 14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 15 Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually. 17 And as for thee, if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments; 18 Then will I stablish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel. 19 But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; 20 Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations. 21 And this house, which is high, shall be an astonishment to every one that passeth by it; so that he shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto this land, and unto this house? 22 And it shall be answered, Because they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath he brought all this evil upon them” (II Chronicles 7:12-22).

This text (and its promises) is clearly applicable only to the nation of Israel and the Davidic Covenant. To make this text a foundation for Reclaiming America is certainly unfounded. To make this text and its promises applicable to the United States surely reveals a Covenant Theology (Reformed and Amillennial) and not a Dispensational Theology. In Covenant Theology (Reformed and Amillennial), the Church (a national or international universal body of believers with a hierarchy of clergy) replaces Israel. Dispensationalism is the result of hermeneutics according to Biblical exegesis. Covenant Theology makes its own hermeneutics and is therefore eisegesis. Eisegesis, not exegesis, is its methodology.

New Evangelicals are led into this deception because many (most) of them see the Church before the Rapture as encompassing all of the Christian churches. The Church to them is this universal body of all “born again” people. Of course, that is very poor hermeneutics in that it completely lacks a dispensation context. The mystical Church does not exist before the Rapture. It is BEING built. It has never been assembled and will not be assembled until the “trump” sounds (I Thessalonians 4:6-17 and Revelation 4:1). The church before the Rapture is always local.

The dividing factor between Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology is that all the promises of the Covenants of God to Israel are transferred to this universal, theonomic institution called the Church. Shedd reveals this fact about Covenant Theology in his application of Isaiah 43:1-6 to the Church instead of to the restoration of the nation of Israel in the (dispensation of) Kingdom Age (Shedd takes a two covenant position. The majority take the favored three-covenant view of Covenant Theology, i.e. a covenant of redemption, a covenant of works and a covenant of grace. Shedd believed the covenant of mercy includes the covenants of grace and redemption).

“Though this distinction [between a purported covenant of redemption and a covenant of grace] is favored by the Scripture statements, it does not follow that there are two separate and independent covenants antithetic to the covenant of works. The covenant of grace and that of redemption are two modes or phases of the one evangelical covenant of mercy. This distinction is only a secondary or subdistinction. For when, as in Isaiah 43:1-6, the elect are spoken of as the party with whom God the Father makes a covenant, they are viewed as in Christ and one with him. The covenant is not made with them as alone apart from Christ. This is taught in Gal. 3:16, ‘To Abraham and his seed were the promises made;’ but this seed is ‘Christ.’ The elect are here (as also in 1 Cor. 12:12) called ‘Christ,’ because of the union between Christ and the elect.” (Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology, Volume II, page 360-361; Thomas Nelson Publishers)

To apply the promises of Isaiah 43:1-6 to the Church, rather than to the future restoration of the nation of Israel requires an eisegetical approach to Scripture (interjection of a supposition). This interpretation shows the interjection of Covenant Theological ideas into the text (eisegesis). This is the common practice of Theonomists.

The other text Theonomists use is Luke 19:13. Again, we must be careful not to take the text out of context or try to understand it outside of a dispensational hermeneutic. When the Reclaiming of America zealots use Luke 19:13, it is pulled out of the context of the parable in which it lies.

“11 And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. 12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. 13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:11-13).

The parable involves the Church Age and the testing of the disciples for the Kingdom Age. When we talk about the Kingdom, it should not be confused with heaven. This is not talking about salvation, but rewards. There will be a time span between His going and His return (the Church Age). During this time span the faithfulness of His servants is being tested. The ten servants represent all believers of the Church Age; including you and me (“ten” represents the completion of a cycle in Scripture). By the test, we understand Christ has the same expectation of all believers equally. He expects every believer to multiply (“bring forth fruit”). This involves soul winning and discipleship. It is not a directive to Political Activism to usher in a Theonomy.

“But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23).

“And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mark 4:20).

“But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:6).

The servants would be rewarded proportionate to the degree of their faithfulness as measured by the gain they make upon the Lord’s investment in them (read Luke 19:16-19).

“16 Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. 17 And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. 18 And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. 19 And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities” (Luke 19:16-19).

The rewards refer to literal cities of the Kingdom Age. The disciple who multiplied himself by ten will govern 10 cities in the Kingdom Age. The disciple who multiplied himself by five will govern 5 cities in the Kingdom Age (compare Revelation 2:25-27).

“25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. 26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: 27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father” (Revelation 2:25-27).

“As the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers” refers to the nations of the world. They shall be “broken” into smaller areas and given to individual, glorified Church Age saints to govern (this is the Priesthood of the believer and the Priesthood of the Kingdom Age with Christ as High Priest). “Even as I received of my Father,” means these believers will be given the same authority as Jesus possesses to govern their groups of cities. This is the dispensation of the Kingdom Age, not the Church Age.

Luke 19:13, “Occupy till I come.”

Christ has expectations regarding His investment in redeeming your soul. Christ expects a profit on His investment. He expects gain (Luke 19:15b, “gained”).

“10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 4:10-11).

No comments: