Mr. Kalsbeek is a teacher in Covenant Christian High School and a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Walker, Michigan. Previous article in this series: May 1, 2005, p. 357.
Western-Style Shari’a Still Promoted
With the abundance of historical evidence demonstrating the failure of the church and state working in concert to achieve positive, God-glorifying results, it would seem the part of wisdom for much of Western Christianity to reconsider its ideas on the kingdom. Current church activity suggests, however, that we are in for still more of the same old attempts to establish unbiblical relationships between church and state.
“Faith-based initiatives” approved by our government and encouraged by many church leaders is one obvious example. The current wisdom seems to be that, since the church is adept at addressing many of society’s welfare concerns in a fiscally responsible way, the state will do well to use the church for this purpose. The problem is that along with state money comes the inevitable puppet strings. While the church may think the state’s money will help achieve great things for God’s kingdom, little does she realize (or care?) that the strings attached will keep her from properly serving her Lord in the dispensing of these government monies. At the same time she will become dependent upon the state.
Christian Reconstruction has its own postmillennial plan for church and state. Proponent of Christian Reconstruction Gary North expresses their goal as follows:
Christians are called by God to exercise authority in every area of life. God has transferred the ownership of the world to Christians, just as he transferred it to Adam before he rebelled. We now are called to take possession of the world in terms of God’s covenantal principles, and by means of God’s sovereign grace.1
In their view “biblical law is Christianity’s tool of dominion.”2 While North insists “that political action is not [North’s emphasis, ck] primary,”3 and that they seek to achieve their goals merely by promoting social change, the fact remains, when all is said and done, that they end up with a rule by means of biblical law. One wonders, which biblical laws will be enforced? Just the 10 Commandments, or some of the other Old Testament laws as well? If so, which ones? Who gets to decide which biblical laws apply? If just the 10 Commandments, how will the tenth commandment be enforced? What about the consequences for those who do not obey? Are the Old Testament penalties also to be exercised? (Many supporters of Christian Reconstruction desire public stoning for many sins.) How will this be any different from life under the Shari’a and Iran’s Islamic ayatollahs or the Taliban who formerly ruled in Afghanistan?
“Focus on the Family’s” James Dobson seems to be promoting a similar program as he works to bring the Bush administration under the influence of the Association of Evangelicals. With “about 90 denominations under the evangelical umbrella”4 and a voting block of about 30 million members, Dobson and his supporters obviously wield significant political clout. As further reported in Time:
Dobson has never been so baldly political. Before the election, he stepped down from the presidency of Focus (he’s still chairman) to launch Focus on the Family Action, a fundraising and grassroots organizing engine free of the political spending limits imposed on the nonprofit Focus. The move allowed Dobson to make his first presidential endorsement (for President Bush), to write to hundreds of thousands of Focus constituents in states with tight Senate races with political advice, and to appear in ads to unseat then Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota. Last fall, Dobson hosted huge “stand for family” rallies—widely seen as supportive of Republican candidates—in close Senate race states, while Focus helped distribute an eye-popping 8 million voting guides. “I can’t think of anybody who had more impact than Dr. Dobson” on social conservatives this election, says Richard Viguerie, the GOP direct-mail pioneer. “He was the 800-pound gorilla.”5
While believers can agree with many of the causes that Dobson supports, by employing churches as a means to pressure the government he makes it clear that “The Dobson Way” is not the biblical way.
Closer to home, some in the Reformed camp also seem to be promoting an unbiblical role of the church with respect to the state because of a faulty view of the kingdom. In his review of the book Light for the City: Calvin’s Preaching, Source of Life and Liberty by Lester DeKoster, Prof. Barrett L. Gritters writes:
The thinking [of DeKoster, ck] runs like this: God’s ultimate goal in the world in human history is not the gathering of His church but the reformation of the world. The cities of the world will become the “city of God.” Politically, culturally, socially, they must (and will) be transformed…. The instrument by which this transformation will take place is the church.6
The Non-Shari’a Way
Will the church never learn? Examples from her own history in ancient times under Emperor Constantine, in medieval times under Pope Innocent III, and in modern times under a state-church in the Netherlands should be warning enough. Today Islamic Shari’a shouts out its own warning to the church: “Beware, this can happen to you too!”
Those who would be tempted to promote such relationships between church and state would do well to consider the biblical and confessional alternative:
The state is separate from, and independent of, the church. A strong doctrine of the separation of church and state is not an American theory. It is the plain teaching of the Bible in both testaments….
As an institution of providence, rather than grace, as an institution based on God’s revelation in creation, rather than the revelation of Scripture, and as an institution separate from and independent of the church, the state has its own peculiar calling. This calling is radically different from the calling of the church. The calling of the state is to maintain earthly peace and order in the life of the nation. By carrying out this calling, the state proves itself the servant of God.7
By submitting herself to the God-ordained order of things, modern-day Israel demonstrates her faithfulness to her Lord and experiences His blessing.
1.Gary De Mar and Gary North, Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991), p. 57.
2.De Mar, p. 160.
3.De Mar, p. 161.
4.Dan Gilgoff, “The Dobson Way,” Time 17 Jan. 2005: p. 69.
5.Gilgoff, p. 65.
6.Barrett L. Gritters, “Book Review,” Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 38, Nov. 2004:105
7.David J. Engelsma, “Messianic Kingdom and Civil Government,” Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 37, April 2004: 31 & 34.