The View From 1776

Christian Service Is Not Theocracy

      http://www.thomasbrewton.com/index.php/weblog/christian_service_is_not_theocracy/

If religious Jews and Christians are true to the Bible, liberals need have no fear of theocracy.  We are instructed to think of helping other people, as individuals, not to create a police state that compels behavior.


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Yesterday I posted an article dealing with the paranoia of liberals, who fear the imposition of a rigid theocracy should Christians and religious Jews gain sufficient political power.  Recent books published by liberals detail horrific expectations of a United States in which only Christians would be eligible to hold public office, a state in which Christians would be given preferences for all public funding, etc.

To allay their fears, let me revert to a sermon delivered last April by our Long Ridge Congregational Church minister, who is away this week.

Before getting to the message of the sermon, let me invite everyone to visit us for Sunday morning services at 9:30 and for Bible study sessions on Wednesday evenings at 7:30.  We are in Stamford, Connecticut, on Old Long Ridge Road, about four miles north of the Merritt Parkway, via Exit 34 (Long Ridge Road).  Just follow the signs.  You may wish in the meanwhile to visit our website at http://www.longridge.org/ .

You will also want to know that we are a Bible-based church, no longer affiliated with the UCC, which has drifted away from Christianity and into moral relativism and rationalization of too many non-Biblical doctrines.

In the April sermon, our minister Robert Childs used Philippians 2:1-11 as his text, under the rubric of Our Vision of God.

Philippians is one of the letters written by the Apostle Paul, in this case to the members of the church that he had founded at Philippi.  The letter is written by Paul from his jail cell in Rome and is both one of his last epistles and one of the oldest texts in the New Testament, composed within 30 years of Jesus’s crucifixion.  Thus everything Paul says regarding Our Savior was a matter of personal, eye-witness experience of his fellow apostles, as well as of Paul’s transforming vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus.

To emphasize the point of the hands-on relationship with Jesus, the books of the New Testament were written so soon after Jesus’s crucifixion that they do not mention the deaths of apostles other than Stephen.  We know from later accounts not part of the New Testament canon that eight years later Paul was executed by the Roman authorities.  In contrast, the gnostic gospels mentioned in the DaVinci Code were composed about 200 years after Jesus’s crucifixion.

A central message in Paul’s epistle to the Philippians is the need for all of us to humble ourselves in service to others.  Humility, not the pridefulness of theocracy, is called for, and Paul reminds us that Jesus is our model.

In Philippians 2:1-4 Pauls admonishes us:

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Continuing in verses 5-8, Paul reminds us that each of us must do something, must answer the call of Jesus to help others; self-interested indifference to the troubles of others won’t cut it:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

Verses 6-9 conclude:

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The same message, in essence, applies to religious Jews, whose religion is the source of Christianity.

Isaiah, arguably the greatest of the prophets, writing in the 8th century BC, warns the stiff-necked, rebellious people of Israel who had strayed once again from God’s law:

Isaiah 1: 10-11

“Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “The multitude of your sacrifices? what are they to me?” says the LORD.”

And in verse 17:

“learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”

Note that Isaiah was addressing both Jews as individuals and their rulers, long before the advent of the welfare state when we could ignore the troubles of our neighbors and say, “I paid my taxes; let the government take care of it.”

The Judeo-Christian tradition thus does not call for a dictatorial theocracy.  It calls to each of us as individuals to ask for God’s guidance to do the right thing, one-on-one, for the people suffering around us.

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