Friday, July 1, 2022

The Early Church and the State

Romans 13: 1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Titus 3: 1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work

1 Peter 2: 13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

I have written several posts on this topic, that of the relationship Christians should hold to the state (most recently, perhaps, here, at the beginning of covidiocy).  I use the term “state” instead of “governing authorities” because the latter term suggests multiple spheres of governing authorities than merely a monopoly state – yet it is “state” that many Christians seem to believe is the only applicable concept.

In any case, my intention is not to rehash the theological point, but to consider the historical context.  Secondly, then, to consider how that context might shape our understanding of these passages.

The Maccabean Revolt was a Jewish rebellion led by the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire and against Hellenistic influence on Jewish life. The main phase of the revolt lasted from 167–160 BCE and ended with the Seleucids in control of Judea, but conflict between the Maccabees, Hellenized Jews, and the Seleucids continued until 134 BCE, with the Maccabees eventually attaining independence.

To varying degrees, some semblance of independence was achieved for about one hundred years, until 37 BC.  Herod the Great, with Roman support, defeated the last ruler and became a Roman client king.

It was in this environment that Jesus was born.  And it was in this environment that His disciples lived.  And this, almost undoubtedly, contributed to the confusion of the disciples: what, exactly, was Jesus’s mission?

How many times do we read in the Gospels of this confusion, of Jesus rebuking them for their lack of understanding?  I offer one of numerous examples:

Luke 18: 31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

We have the Apostle Peter, told he will deny Jesus three times before the morning – and Peter denying that he would do this.  In our memory, we immediately jump to the denials – but we skip what was in-between:

Monday, June 27, 2022

A God of Confusion?

Continuing with the examination by Paul VanderKlay (PVK) of the results of the recent synod of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) on the subject of gay marriage.  Regarding the result, and as a reminder:

The Christian Reformed Church, a small evangelical denomination of U.S. and Canadian churches, voted Wednesday (June 15) at its annual synod to codify its opposition to homosexual sex by elevating it to the status of confession, or declaration of faith.

The vote was overwhelming.

PVK has released a third video looking at the vote and the aftermath, entitled “What is a Confessional Conversation and How it Could Help the CRCNA Sort out its Future.”  Through it, he expands on his thoughts of the need of just such a conversation within the CRC.

I commented at this video, and will expand on these comments here.  These comments are relevant to his denomination, the broader Church, and overall, regarding society – as the same issues tearing apart one are tearing apart all.

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A thing cannot both be and not be at the same time.  To be or not to be, and all that…. “Or,” not “and.”

There is a standard or there isn't a standard; there is an ideal or there isn't an ideal; there is objective truth or there isn't objective truth; there are borders or there aren’t borders; there are boundaries or there aren’t boundaries; there is a created order or there isn't a created order; there is natural law or there isn't natural law.

1 Corinthians 14: 33 (a) For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

How might we understand a God of confusion as opposed to a God of peace?  What characteristics would describe one verses the other?  And, as God is a God of peace, what might this mean regarding these characteristics?

Imagine a world built on standards, ideals, objective truth, borders, boundaries, created order, natural law.  Then imagine a world with no standards, no ideals, no objective truth, no borders, no boundaries, no created order, no natural law.  The first would be peaceful, the second would be confusing.

One could consider the characteristics of “peace” as traditional conservatism.  As I have written in the past, the only meaningful thing to conserve – as all other markers are just points at which conservatives attempt to slow down the momentum of progressives – is a natural law ethic.

One could consider the characteristics of “confusion” as progressivism, modern liberalism, leftism, etc.  But this isn’t quite true.  These groups do have a standard – and that is to have no standard; they do have ideals – and that is to have no ideal; they have an objective truth – that there is no such thing as objective truth.  So, while the statement isn’t quite true of these groups (no standard, no ideals, etc.), the practical result and application is the same.

A society without borders or boundaries – no right to justly acquired property, no right to one’s bodily integrity and life.  Is this a peaceful society?  A society with no commonly accepted standard or ideal – will this lead to peace or confusion?

So, in this discussion / debate in the CRC, the broader Church, and society overall, which side is the side of peace, and which side is the side of confusion?  Can there be a meaningful and successful conversation (a conversation moving closer to common understanding) between those on the side of peace and those on the side of confusion?

Thursday, June 23, 2022

The Narrow Path

(RNS) — The Christian Reformed Church, a small evangelical denomination of U.S. and Canadian churches, voted Wednesday (June 15) at its annual synod to codify its opposition to homosexual sex by elevating it to the status of confession, or declaration of faith.

The 123-53 vote at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, caps a process begun in 2016 when a previous synod voted to form a study committee to bring a report on the “biblical theology” of sexuality.

The vote, following a long day of debate, approves a list of what the denomination calls sexual immorality it won’t tolerate, including “adultery, premarital sex, extra-marital sex, polyamory, pornography and homosexual sex.”

Paul VanderKlay has been preparing for this synod for quite some time.  In past videos when addressing this topic, he has demonstrated a sadness that he knew that the issue would tear the denomination apart.  He has offered a couple of short videos outlining his thoughts and reactions to the vote, here and here.

I commented at the first of these two videos, and my (edited) comment follows (with a few further thoughts thrown in):

In my parents’ home was a poster, depicting the narrow path and the broad path.  The first showed a family under blessing; the second, movie theaters, alcohol, prostitutes, etc.  The first led to heaven, the second to hell.  Setting aside the theological discussions which such a depiction entails, it is at least an interpretation of Jesus’s words in Matthew 7: 13-14.

This is the poster, although I don’t recall that the one my parents had was in German: