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Devotionals

Casting the NAR Mountain of Politics Into the Sea

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2. The gospel is the main thing, but not the only thing. To be sure, we must never wander far from the cross in our preaching. But if we are to give the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:26-27), we must show how a thousand other theological, philosophical, and ethical issues are connected to Christ and him crucified. Thabiti is right: "A 'gospel-centered' evangelicalism that becomes a 'gospel-only' evangelicalism ceases to be properly evangelical." The Bible is a big book. It doesn't say everything about everything, and it doesn't say anything about some things, but it does say a lot about more than just a few things. -- Kevin DeYoung

This is where so many well intended preachers go astray. The Bible says that it is human wisdom seeping into the preaching of the Gospel that empties the cross of its power. Let that sink in for a moment. Despite the intentions of DeYoung here he has things backwards. The verses from Acts are not speaking about attaching the Gospel to the things of this life but the opposite. The entire counsel of God means you do not leave any portion of the Gospel out, like let's say sin and repentance. Without apologies to Thabiti, the notion that preaching the Gospel is somehow not good enough evangelism is nuts. It is pure NAR thinking that believes we must somehow convince the world to behave better. Romans teaches us that only the Gospel has the power to save, thus it is quite sufficient. There is nothing we can add to it in our own wisdom that will in anyway enhance the Gospel. No beloved, do not be fooled. The Gospel is the one thing, the only thing, the everything.

3. Distinguish between the corporate church and the individual Christian. We need believers in all levels of government and engaged in every kind of public policy debate. But there is a difference between the Bible-informed, Christian citizen and the formal declarations from church pronouncements and church pulpits. In the early part of the 20th century, most evangelicals strongly supported the Eighteenth Amendment, the Volstead Act, and Prohibition in general. When J. Gresham Machen made the unpopular decision to vote against his church voicing support for the amendment, he did so, in part, because such a vote would have failed to recognize "the church in its corporate capacity as distinguished from the activities of its members, on record with regard to such political questions" (Selected Shorter Writings, 394). -- Kevin DeYoung

I do not think this is his point but distinguishing between the believer and the church is important in that no one political opinion is righteous. They are all carnal. The best one could ever hope for is the lesser of two evils and that is always completely subjective. The problem is those that insist on correlating their lesser evil to Christ. We do not need believers in every level of government beloved. If they happen to be there great but otherwise this is once again pure NAR doctrine that seeks to conquer the world to facilitate the second coming of Christ. The Volstead Act is a perfect example of the church not knowing its boundaries. Instead of preaching the Gospel it got caught up in the prohibition debate and wanted to be the moral police of this country. What was the result? More people drank than ever, the Volstead Act failed, and countless people hated the church for their stance even more. Nowhere does the Bible say we are to take political stances against those we are charged with bringing the Gospel to. Arguing over prohibition, or whatever the prohibition of today is, plays right into the devil's hands. Every second we waste on debating human wisdom is another second of a powerless cross and an unpreached Gospel.

4. Think about the nature of your office and the ministry of your church. I studied political science in college, and I've read fairly widely (for a layman) in economics, sociology, and political philosophy. I have plenty of opinions and convictions. But that's not what I want my ministry to be about. That's not to say I don't comment on abortion or gay marriage or racism or other issues about the which the Bible speaks clearly. And yet, I'm always mindful that I can't separate Blogger Kevin or Twitter Kevin or Professor Kevin from Pastor Kevin. As such, my comments reflect on my church, whether I intend them to or not. That means I keep more political convictions to myself than I otherwise would. I don't want people concluding from my online presence that Christ Covenant is really only a church for people who view economics like I do or the Supreme Court like I do or foreign affairs like I do. Does this mean I never enter the fray on hot button issues? Hardly. But it means I try not to do so unless I have explicit and direct biblical warrant for the critique I'm leveling or the position I'm advocating. It also means that I try to remember that even if I think my tweets and posts are just a small fraction of what I do or who I am, for some people they are almost everything they see and know about me. I cannot afford to have a public persona that does not reflect my private priorities. -- Kevin DeYoung

When your sole focus is the Gospel, you do not need to parse any of this out. As a pastor your responsibility is to the Gospel. DeYoung is right that you cannot separate out your other personas from your main one as pastor. It still remains a bit unsettling that he needs to weigh in on some issues. The reality is that we are no longer of this world beloved. We are called out from it. We are consecrated from it. We are pilgrims and sojourners through it. Our citizenship is in heaven. I have seen the most vile, uninformed and outright inaccurate posts and tweets from pastors who have no regard for their witness for Christ! If people see you are willing to lie about politics, why would they believe anything you had to say about Christ?

5. Consider that the church, as the church, is neither capable nor called to address every important issue in the public square. This is not a cop-out. This is common sense. I've seen denominational committees call the church to specific positions regarding the farm bill, Sudanese refugees, the Iraq War, socially screened retirement funds, immigration policy, minimum-wage increases, America's embargo of Cuba, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, global economics, greenhouse gas emissions, social welfare, and taxation policies. While the church may rightly make broad statements about caring for the poor and the oppressed, and may even denounce specific cultural sins, the church should not be in the business of specifying which types of rifles Christians may and may not use (a real example) or which type of judicial philosophy Christians should want in a Supreme Court justice (another real example). Again, Machen's approach is instructive. He insisted that no one "has a greater horror of the evils of drunkenness than I" and that it was "clearly the duty of the church to combat this evil." And yet, as to the "exact form" of legislation (if any), he allowed for difference of opinion. Some men, he maintained, believed that the Volstead Act was not a wise method of dealing with the problem of drunkenness, and that enforced Prohibition would cause more harm than good. Without stating his own opinion, Machen argued that "those who hold the view that I have just mentioned have a perfect right to their opinion, so far as the law of our church is concerned, and should not be coerced in any way by ecclesiastical authority. The church has a right to exercise discipline where authority for condemnation of an act can be found in Scripture, but it has no such right in other cases" (394-95).

Once again, DeYoung gets so close but cannot give up the political football he likes playing with. The church is not called to address any issue in the public square. When asked about taxes Jesus said go catch a fish. When asked about Caesar He said give unto him what is his. Jesus was apathetic regarding the politics of His day and there were plenty of politics then too. His disciples all thought He was going to deliver them from the oppression of Rome but He had bigger plans to deliver them from the oppression of sin and the devil. Consider that same microcosm for the church today. Save your pet Christian issue no matter how long you've been told it is a sacred cow. The Gospel message is paramount. It is the only thing that matters. There is no social wedge issue that matters more. None.

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