Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Christian Sub-Culture

A few of us are sitting in my office watching the last session of the Truth Project produced by Focus on the Family. It's a wonderful series and I highly recommend it with one caution. It's the same caution I would bring to church leaders who endorse candidates or political parties. (There was a movement among some to do that last Sunday in a push for "pulpit freedom.")

It seems to me that the call to transform the culture, espoused by the Truth Project, is dangerously close to the thought that we ought to reestablish "Christendom."
The term Christendom has been used to refer to the medieval and renaissance notion of the Christian world as a sort of social and political polity. In essence, the vision of Christendom is a vision of a Christian theocracy, a government devoted to the enforcement of Christian values, whose institutions are suffused with Christian doctrine. In this vision, members of the Christian clergy wield political authority. The specific relationship between the political leaders and the clergy can vary but, in theory, national or political divisions are subsumed under the leadership of a church institution. This vision would tempt Church leaders and political leaders alike throughout European history.
I believe God calls us, as a church body, to form a Christian sub-culture. God will call individuals to work in the political and secular world. We ought to use the values we understand to be from the heart of God to vote, campaign and even run for office. But politics, the government, the society or the CULTURE of the world (as the truth project talks about) will never be "Christian." It will always be dominated by sin.

Martin Luther made a helpful distinction between the kingdom on the left (where the law rules) and the kingdom on the right (where the gospel is king). We ought not confuse them. When we do, we try to enforce Christian values and end up, perhaps, with a mild form of the inquisition. Understanding Luther's teaching about the two kingdoms is helpful as Christians are tempted to control the culture around us.

So then, we do our best to build a Christian Sub-Culture in our church, in our families, and in the personal relationships we hold dear.

See you in church!

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