In the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, we see only two categories of people: People whom Jesus knew and people whom He never knew. There is no third category for “casual acquaintances,” “occasional visitors at my house,” or “people I know for a little while.” Either you know Jesus or you don’t. There is no middle ground.Read More
In a 2012 post, I discuss the questions “Was America a Christian Nation?” and “Is America a Christian Nation?” In the context of that discussion, I offered several possible definitions of what, exactly, it means to be a “Christian nation.” The one that has the most relevance to our country’s history—the definition under which we came closest to being a “Christian nation”—is “a nation based on the legal system of Scripture,” or, perhaps, “a nation based on Biblical principles.”
In the last 2,000 years of human history, few societies have attempted this. Eventually, each of these societies either ceased to exist or abandoned Biblical principles. If nations governed according to Biblical principles are God’s ideal, why do they not last?
There are thousands of interconnected factors. It would be reductionistic and simplistic to narrow them down to a single cause. However, as I’ve pondered this notion over the last couple of years, one factor has stood out with increasing clarity.
What exactly are the Biblical principles on which a nation should be based? Let’s start with the New Testament. Most discussions of the principles by which lives should be lived are specifically for how Christians should live. There are a few discussions of the role of civil government, most notably Romans 13′s comment that the civil government is responsible to bear the sword to “execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” In the context of Romans 13, what is evil? What evils should government be policing?
The answers are far too complex to answer in a blog post. Yet I suspect that incorrect answers to that question have been a central part of the downfall of numerous Christian societies.
Matthew 25 relates the parable of the sheep and the goats. Every society in human history has had and will have goats. It is the responsibility of civil government to preserve the peace, to keep the sheep and the goats from killing or harming one another. It is not the responsibility of civil government to make goats act like sheep in every respect.
There are certain things that neither goats nor sheep should do. But Christians are called to a higher standard. Should Christians keep the Lord’s name holy, observe a day of rest, submit ourselves to the leadership of our local churches, pray without ceasing, and meditate on God’s Word day and night? Most certainly. Should we be surprised when unbelievers do not do the same? Ought unbelievers be forced to do the same?
The central sin of the unbeliever is rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Everything else is secondary. In fact, a case could be made that we do unbelievers a disservice if, through cultural pressure or Government imperatives, we reform their conduct so completely that they think that they are “a good person” despite an unregenerate heart.
Civil government has a role: To preserve the lives and God-ordained liberties of its citizens. Its role is not to camouflage goats as sheep; it is not to hide the unregenerate heart of a goat in the wool of a Christian’s conduct.Read More
This weekend, I had the opportunity to lead a small group study on the authority of Scripture. This small group is working through Thomas Watson’s A Body of Divinity. Watson had several excellent quotes that I wanted to save here for future reference.
On the authorship of Scripture:
I wonder whence the Scriptures should come, if not from God. Bad men could not be the authors of it. Would their minds be employed in inditing such holy lines? Would they declare so fiercely against sin? Good men could not be the authors of it. Could they write in such a strain? or could it stand with their grace to counterfeit God’s name, and put, Thus saith the Lord, to a book of their own devising? Nor could any angel in heaven be the author of it, because the angels pry and search into the abyss of gospel mysteries, I Pet. 1:12, which implies their nescience [ignorance] of some parts of Scripture; and sure they cannot be the authors of that book which they themselves do not fully understand.
On believing Scripture:
Oh give credence to the Word! It is breathed from God’s own mouth. Hence arises the profaneness of men, that they do not believe the Scripture. Isa. 53:1: ‘Who has believed our report?’ Did you believe the glorious rewards the Scripture speaks of, would you not give diligence to make your election sure? Did you believe the infernal torments the Scripture speaks of, would it not put you in a cold sweat, and cause a trembling at heart for sin? But people are in part atheists, they give but little credit to the Word, therefore they are so impious, and draw such dark shadows in their lives. Learn to realise Scripture, get your hearts wrought to a firm belief of it.
Some think, if God should send an angel from heaven, and declare his mind, they would believe him; or, if he should send one from the [condemned], and preach the torments of hell in all flames, they would believe. But, ‘If they believe not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one arose from the dead.’ Luke 16:31. God is wise, and he thinks the fittest way to make his mind known to us is by writing; and such as shall not be convinced by the Word, shall be judged by the Word.
He discussed the claim of Roman Catholicism that only the Roman Catholic Church had the power to interpret Scripture. In answer of the question of who may interpret Scripture, he said:
The Scripture is to be its own interpreter, or rather the Spirit speaking in it. Nothing can cut the diamond but the diamond; nothing can interpret Scripture but Scripture.
Theology is the only true philosophy. Any “wisdom” in conflict with God’s revealed truth is, in fact, no wisdom of all. So the true lover (philo) of wisdom (sophy) is a lover of God’s wisdom.
Taking God’s name in vain is the spiritual equivalent of flag burning.Read More