An e-publication of Living Hope Presbyterian Church
Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless; Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.
I saw her wandering up the sidewalk in front of the Christian bookstore where I worked in Dallas, TX. I saw her almost every day along that busy road. She couldn’t have been more than 15 or 16 years-old – an otherwise pretty blonde, dressed in the manner of a prostitute, with that vacant, expressionless slack-jawed look of a drug addict. On this day, I was ironically standing near the front at the Bible counter. I watched her approach, and wondered, as I had on several occasions, how I might help her. As she passed the entrance to the store, a pimped-up Cadillac, complete with curb-feelers, parked in front of me at the glass storefront, less than five feet from where I stood. The driver rolled down the passenger side electric window. The girl walked over and leaned into the opening. They spoke for a few seconds. She casually got into the car. And they left. I not only witnessed the entire transaction, they could fully see me standing there as well – surrounded by Bibles.
There are some influential pastors and teachers in the Reformed church who take a new theological position they call “Two Kingdoms” theology (some of their opponents call it “Radical Two Kingdoms” or R2K). This position limits the authority and scope of Scripture to within the Church and thus biblical standards may not be imposed on those who are outside of the Church.
One’s theology always has practical consequences. In an R2K controlled world, individual Christians are certainly obligated to present the Gospel to them, but apart of the presentation of the Gospel, the Church itself should separate itself and the application of Scripture from the culture and the state. Because the state is composed of both unbelievers and believers – those living inside and outside of God’s Kingdom, God’s Word holds no moral authority over the state.
So what about the man in the Cadillac and the poor young girl I saw that day at the store? What this teaching means in the real world is that Christians may allow for any sort of perversity to be legal within their culture. The state and the Church are completely separate when it comes to arguing for and legislating morality. Thus, for some in this R2K camp, one may legitimately argue against homosexual “marriage” in the Church, but, at the same time, argue to allow civil laws permitting it. Thus, the Church has no authority to interfere with other’s self-destructive paths so long as they remain outside its walls. The Church’s responsibility to affect people’s lives and the culture around us only begins when someone enters its gates.
Politically, this position appears to be essentially libertarianism. Religiously, it appears to be an exclusion of the Church from the public square. It is as if we Christians are enclosed in our own cultural sanctuary. And we, being on the other side of the glass and surrounded by God’s Word (as I was that day at the Dallas bookstore), deny the physical protection that implementing God’s Law would provide, particularly to the vulnerable. All the while the culture moves forward all around us to openly embrace Hell.
Is biblical morality given solely for the Church and its members? As the Book of Deuteronomy shows, the Ten Commandments have a clear corporate application in the ordering of a nation’s laws (eg. Dt 4.7-8). Consider the verse above. “Learn to do good” is the overall controlling command. The next four following commands give us the application of what it means to do good. All four are general commands without the qualification of a “believers only” context. In fact, the verse is part of a passage in which God is pleading for the nation of Judah to repent or experience judgment. Thus, all of the commands assume a mechanism (ie an official civil entity) to bring justice to that situation, because each controlling imperative verb (seek, rebuke, defend, and plead) contains the idea of judgment or justice. For how does one “seek justice” without a judge with the authority to grant it? Upon what grounds does one “rebuke (meaning “judge”) the ruthless”? And from whom and how does one “defend the orphan” or to whom does one “plead for the widow”– both having the idea to gaining a favorable judgement for them? (See also Dt 25.1 and Rm 13.3-4)
Just as it not surprising for a young boy to try to argue with his Christian mom that he is not bound to obedience to the Ten Commandments because he is not a Christian (true story), so too will the unbeliever, individually and corporately, try to deny his responsibility and guilt before God to His commands. But though the unbeliever or the boy are not members of a church, they are creatures of the Creator – created with an immortal soul and implanted with the Creator’s rules for living (the Ten Commandments). Man’s rebellion against God means that his moral compass has twisted and marred his understanding of those rules, but as the Apostle Paul explains in the book of Romans, God still holds man responsible to maintain His commands and man innately knows he is guilty for not doing so.
The gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church. And the way the Church achieves that goal can only ultimately be done if it is on the offensive. Yes, that means the conversion of souls. But it also means changing the culture by the Church pressing the claims of Christ and the Law of God upon society at large. Unlike the teachings of multiculturalism, cultures are not created equal. Any culture not founded upon the truth of Christianity is inherently evil at its base.
Western Civilization became one of the few cultures of the world to be captured and molded by a Christian worldview. That statement is not to say that it has ever been perfect. However, there was a common understanding, whether Protestant or Catholic, that the Church possessed the biggest influence within the culture for any refinement or change.
But not so now. The West has been traveling down the path of rejecting her spiritual heritage for some time. Our culture is now not just leaning into the car’s open window. She is in the car and they are driving off. We, as Christians and as a Church, must look to see how we may be complete witnesses to individuals and more broadly to our culture, and then take action. Our time to do so freely may be quickly coming to an end.