the history of the church there has been one particular conflict between church
and state which does not seem to be leaving us: just what is the role of the
government in matters social? The matter is now before us again in what is
called “social Gospel.” Here’s a brief history:
those not familiar with St. Augustine, he’s the man who gave us original sin.
He also gave us views of “just war” and the role of the state. Recall that he
lived in a time when the Roman Empire (western) was collapsing. More and more
authority was coming to the church.
view was this: the state is the handmaiden of the church. Guided by the
wisdom of the bishops, the state is to perform what we today would call welfare
on behalf of the church. Thus society would continually improve until
we reach the golden age of man. Note that the golden age was not the driving
factor; rather, it was the supremacy of the church over the state. Roman
Catholic politics are based upon this doctrine.
view of Revelation, common from the Reformation through the beginning of the 20th
century, holds that there will come a golden age of man, the millennium, which
lasts for a thousand years. Since they saw no way for the millennium to arrive
without human effort, it was obviously the task of the church in a democratic
society to campaign for actions which would bring it about. Much of the law
concerning child labor, for example, is rooted in this view. It is still the
official view of many mainstream churches, which have a long tradition of what
would today be called liberal politics.
the evangelical churches there is a new view sweeping over the land. In the
“emerging church” view the promises of Revelation – the second coming, the
judgment of the living and the dead, the millennium – are all “metaphorical”
(English translation: not going to happen.) For example, our pastor preached
on heaven – and not a mention of any of the seven last things.
in this view, there will be no millennium it behooves the church to attempt to
create the best possible environment here on earth. We don’t evangelize (there
are many ways to heaven in this view) but we “build community.” Liberal
politics now prevail.
older view of the evangelical churches is based on two factors:
pre-millennial view of Revelation, which prophesies a golden age of man after
the return of Christ. Thus it is that no amount of effort now will
bring about such a golden age.
strong dose of American capitalism, which tends to view the poor as being
deserving of it.
said, we may now ask, “Just how does Solomon see it?”
Along with the Government
Ecc 8:1-13 Who is like the wise
man and who knows the interpretation of a matter? A man's wisdom illumines him
and causes his stern face to beam. (2) I say,
"Keep the command of the king because of the oath before God. (3) "Do not be in a hurry to leave him. Do not
join in an evil matter, for he will do whatever he pleases." (4) Since the word of the king is authoritative, who
will say to him, "What are you doing?" (5)
He who keeps a royal command experiences
no trouble, for a wise heart knows the proper time and procedure. (6) For there is a proper time and procedure for
every delight, though a man's trouble is heavy upon him. (7) If no one knows what will happen, who can tell
him when it will happen? (8) No man has
authority to restrain the wind with the wind, or authority over the day of
death; and there is no discharge in the time of war, and evil will not deliver
those who practice it. (9) All this I have
seen and applied my mind to every deed that has been done under the sun wherein
a man has exercised authority over another
man to his hurt. (10) So then, I have seen
the wicked buried, those who used to go in and out from the holy place, and
they are soon forgotten in the city
where they did thus. This too is futility. (11)
Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore
the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil. (12) Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those
who fear God, who fear Him openly. (13) But
it will not be well for the evil man and he will not lengthen his days like a
shadow, because he does not fear God.
reader will recall that the basic relationship between the Christian and the
state is one of submission. We are not speaking of rebellion here; rather,
what does the Christian do with a more-or-less reasonable government?
your going to work in the palace (or the White House) there are three
adjectives you need:
The halls of government are no place for amateurs and fools. Rather, seek
after wisdom – and use it. Does this mean that experienced politicians
might do a better job? Could be. Could be. There is a time and
procedure for everything – and you’d best know what they are.
Even to this day we swear in our congressmen and president. You take an
oath of office. But you take it before God Almighty, and he will not take
it lightly if you violate that oath.
- Righteousness. What goes around, comes around – usually in the
next election. It is amazing how many of our politicians think that they
can conceal – and how often they can’t.
physics there is a law known as the “uncertainty principle.” Very broadly put,
it says that the more you know about one variable (say momentum) the less you
know about another (position). You can’t know everything to the last decimal
place – it is impossible.
same is true in government. Many are the politicians forecasting glories for
their programs and doom for their opponents’ ideas. But do you really know
what is going to happen? More important, can you really control it. Solomon
points out that you have as much chance of directing the wind as you do in
said, there are going to be times that the government is run by wicked men
(just who was Spiro Agnew?) But this principle applies to them too. Being wicked
ultimately doesn’t work; it’s like drinking salt water when dying of thirst.
It just brings on more wickedness until it falls apart. Ultimately, these
people die and are forgotten. Who would remember Richard III if not for
course, that doesn’t mean that wicked rulers are not a problem. One of the
more serious side effects is that justice is often delayed. Justice delayed is
justice denied, we often say. It is certainly true that justice delayed
invites more evil.
again, who wins in the end? It is better to fear God and be content with what
you have than to climb the corporate ladder with a cutlass in your teeth.
Ecc 8:13-17 But it will not be
well for the evil man and he will not lengthen his days like a shadow, because
he does not fear God. (14) There is futility
which is done on the earth, that is, there are righteous men to whom it happens
according to the deeds of the wicked. On the other hand, there are evil men to
whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I say that this too is
futility. (15) So I commended pleasure, for
there is nothing good for a man under the sun except to eat and to drink and to
be merry, and this will stand by him in his toils throughout
the days of his life which God has given him under the sun. (16) When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see
the task which has been done on the earth (even though one should never sleep
day or night), (17) and I saw every work of
God, I concluded that man cannot
discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should
seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say,
"I know," he cannot discover.
face it: our frustration with the evils of this world comes down to the fact
that we know that shouldn’t happen – and yet it does. We then cry to God and
ask why. Permit me three questions in response to that question:
God have to explain it to you? Just who are you? You may want one; you
may be obedient – but God is still God. He doesn’t have to tell you
he did, would you understand it? Are you really as profoundly wise as all
that? Is there that much IQ stuffed into your skull?
he did, what would you do about it? The reason you’re complaining is that
you can’t fix it. You’d have to ask him to fix it anyway – and you don’t
need to know why it’s broken to ask that.
can you do?
drink and be merry.
it’s not a sin to eat, drink and be merry. Honest. There’s a time and place
for it; in due moderation, it’s just fine. Even better – it involves no
complication of wisdom. All of us understand it.
work of God
is man that you are mindful of him?” Therein lies our basic problem with the
state. Particularly in a democracy, we feel we should see all ends, understand
all things, and proceed with confidence.
is not so. Consider, for a moment, physics. It’s still an on-going pursuit.
But I ask you:
you really discover it all? The pattern so far is that every new
discovery opens up more to discover.
we did discover it all. Could anyone understand it?
that’s true of physics, how much more is it true about the nature of evil and