Forum: The essence of Biblical Christianity
‘Reclaimer’ has followed up his last post (‘“We are lesser sons, of greater Sires” or, the problem with Evangelicals.’) with this one, explaining further about the history of Biblical Christianity. It is essential that we understand this, and how we are being fed weak sauce through many of the current churches.
These posts are on the forum. A discussion has developed on both of these posts. Clearly, to be part of that, you would need to sign up for the forum. This is something that you may decide to do anyway, given the greater conversation on the forum concerning all aspects, from Tactics and onwards. It is not something I can persuade you of the value of – you are either in or not.
There was a lot of traffic on my last thread regarding evangelical Christianity vs. its predecessor, and I was asked to put together a list of beliefs in a way that explained it without being an essay on the subject. This is both an easy and a hard task; on one hand, the foundational beliefs are not complicated, on the other hand a lot of the implications are underneath the surface, so to only cover the foundation would make the belief look skeletal, and perhaps meaningless. This is my attempt to walk between “essay” and shallow, and hopefully serves as a succinct distillation of beliefs.
I was asked what I call this branch of Christianity, as opposed to Evangelical. Initially I proffered two names, “Biblical Christianity” and “Reformed Christianity.” I do not use “traditional Christianity,” for a couple reasons not worth going into here – suffice it to say, it’s too ambiguous. “Reformed” is accurate, but since one of the largest goals of the reformation was a return to scriptural authority, “Biblical Christianity” is the best term I have so far, especially since there are a number of groups that call themselves “reformed” without having any ties whatsoever to the principles of the Reformation.
Before reading this, I want to point out two things. First, there is a much more worthy attempt to summarize Christianity without going down scholarly holes, written by C. S. Lewis, whom I often mention. If the basics of Biblical Christianity intrigue you, and the roots of this belief are something you want to learn about, then “Mere Christianity” by Lewis is one of the best resources I could suggest, as it is conversational, logical, and accurate. Secondly, as with my first post, this is not a theological post – it is a historical post on the essence of Biblical Christianity, as it was understood through history.
In a nutshell, Biblical Christianity believes:
1. That both Man and the Universe were created good, and that Man was given a responsibility to tend the world and to take care of it as stewards – this is known as the “Dominion Mandate.” In short, it entails the idea that each and every person in responsible to “tend” the world, like workers in God’s garden, and are accountable to Him to do so in a worthy manner.
2. That Man, through sin, corrupted the world and destroyed the natural harmony that once existed (the “Fall.”). Corrupted by sin, men and nature now exist in a never-ending series of tragedies, one following the other, and there is nothing Man can do to fix this – the damage has been done.
3 . That, as a result of the fall, Man has shown a remarkable ability to corrupt everything he touches. Left to his own devices, Man will consistently gravitate toward selfish actions that are destructive to the created world. Some people will constantly seek power, turning into tyrants. Others will become more and more depraved, finding pleasure in things that ought to be hated (examples, pedophilia and slowly skinning animals alive for fun). While not all men go to such extremes, that seed is in all men, and all men participate in it to some degree. The corruption exists both individually and corporately – each person has a part of himself that seeks bad things, and any group of people will find itself combating the same corruption. Even when it is resisted, the urge to do wrong things continues; men will struggle against their urges, but there will never be a man with no urge to do wrong things, and there will never be a man who does not sometimes succumb to such urges.
4. That as a result of the corruption, since each and every person participates in it by nature of their own sin, it is utterly impossible for any man to earn God’s favor. While there are good things a man can do, and God is pleased with those things, there is absolutely no way for any person to “balance” their scales toward the good, since we have participated in the corruption. At the end of the day, based upon our actions, God finds each person “guilty,” and no person can work hard enough to change that.
5. That God has not left us in our corruption, but has taken it upon Himself to “put the machine to rights.” Man has messed it up and now must live with the consequences of so doing, but God has promised that not all mistakes will endure forever, and has promised a way to remove both the individual and the corporate corruption from the earth. This way is found in the person and teachings of Jesus, who took the punishment for the corruption upon Himself. As such, whoever accepts that price on their behalf will not have to answer for their sin in the end, but will have their sins forgiven. Furthermore, after his resurrection but before returning to heaven, Jesus promised that one day He will return to rule, and will finish putting the world to rights.
6. That, because of the pervasive corruption of men, there is no way to have any human institution of any kind that can be guaranteed to stay “good.” No matter how well it is crafted, and no matter what precautions are taken, there is always a chance that a human institution will “go wrong” and need to be corrected, and sooner or later, each and every institution falls. Therefore, ultimate hope and authority cannot rest in a human institution; it will have to rest in something above all men, and all human institutions.
7. That this ultimate authority rests in God Himself. God reserves some authority in Himself, expresses some of it in his Word, and delegates some of it to men so that they may carry out the commands they have been given. Scripture was given, in part, to check men’s attempts to seize power/do things they ought not. As scripture is an authority above all human institutions, no man has the authority to edit/alter it, and the teachings contained therein are binding to all men, in all areas, at all times.
8. That these delegations of authority form the basis for authority in government, in the Church, and other areas. Both Government and the Church are created by God as tools by which men “tend” the fallen world. Both institutions (and others) have been given instructions on how to operate, and boundaries which the Lord forbids them to cross; they are given the authority delineated to them, and no more. To that end, the following distinction is drawn; authority is the right to do a thing, power is the ability to do a thing. A person or institution might have the right to do something but not the power, just like a person can have the right to defend themselves but not have the weapon or ability to do so. By the same token, a person or institution can have the power to do something, but not the right. Thus, there is a sharp distinction between power and authority.
9. That when a person or institution attempts take authority that God has not granted, or use power in a way that has not been authorized, they attempt to take the place of God Himself, which is an act of idolatry and is therefore to be resisted. While there are metering commands also, which mean we do not immediately default to the highest tier of resistance, a time does come where the removal of such a person or institution is not just allowed, but commanded.
10. That men are not to use God’s sovereignty as an excuse for inaction. Even though we have messed this up, and even though we are unable to fix it entirely, the dominion mandate is a mandate, not a permission. To that end, each man is expected to do his best to address the problems in the world, and not simply wait for God to fix it. While God will ultimately cast down any tyranny and will not allow evil to endure forever, to remain passive in the face of evil is to participate in it, and God will hold to account those who do not do their best. Though there is more evil in the world then mankind can ever address, we are commanded to battle it nonetheless, to the utmost ends of our ability.
Of course, Romans 13 was raised. That great excuse for Tyranny! Here are some of the comments on that:
sneakypete wrote: How do you support your point 10 with scripture?
Scripture overwhelmingly supports point 10. In fact, so does Romans 13 itself. In order to take the now-common interpretation of Romans 13, which claims that Romans 13 forbids resistance to tyranny/evil rulers, you have to ignore massive portions of scripture which involve people doing exactly that (resisting/casting down tyrants), at God’s command. Between the responses by Joe and the video posted by Max, there is not much left to say without going into a response long enough to be its own post, which I will probably do (since it comes up so much) but not here.
The main point of Romans 13 is that all authority comes from God, and therefore the one wielding authority (the “magistrate”) is not just a man, but a representative of God, and to disobey him, to disobey God himself. This was incredibly important to teach and stress at that point in time, for reasons that I will elaborate in just a moment. Suffice it to say, Paul did not decide to inject a random comment about total obedience to civil authority in an otherwise theological letter written to a Church.
A lot of the misunderstanding of Romans 13 comes to the word authority. When we, in the modern post-Christian West, use the word, we often think of a person occupying a civil position. However, this is not the Biblical meaning of the word, per se. Authority stems from God Himself, and men get it when God delegates it to them to do a certain, specific task. God does not simply delegate authority to see what men do with it, the authority comes with a specific set of instructions, which can be found in numerous places in Scripture. These delegations are specific, and limited; so limited, in fact, that many of the instances of God putting men to death stem from them trying to usurp authority they have not been given. For example, Leviticus 10:1-2 recounts how two priests, both sons of Aaron, were struck dead for offering unauthorized incense before the LORD. Note that it was not that what they did was inherently evil or forbidden; certain people were commanded to offer incense at certain times. Rather, it was that they overstepped their bounds to do so – some men were authorized to offer incense, but even though they were priests they were not authorized to do so, and that transgression was a capital offense. For a civil example, look to Israel’s first king, Saul, who had the kingly authority stripped from him and given to David, after Saul tried to fill a priestly role he had had not been authorized to fill. (1 Samuel 13). The point is this; even if you are an authority, you are only one in a limited context and with limited power, and trying to overstep such limitations disqualifies you from holding authority any longer. When understood properly, then, the Romans 13 command to “submit to the governing authority” means to follow any command that an authority is authorized to give, because the person giving the order is doing what the LORD has commanded them to do; thus, to resist them in their task is to resist God Himself.
As I said before, there is a context to why Paul felt the need to restate that command in Romans, and why we find nearly identical commands in Peter’s epistles and in Hebrews. Jesus’ main focal point of his ministry was the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, which had been foretold and had finally arrived. The militaristic Jews had falsely interpreted this prophecy to mean an end to their subjugation under the Gentile/pagan nations, and believed that when He came, Jesus would crown them over all other earthy powers. This was, of course, false. However, many the new Christians were Jews who still held to a weird version of this interpretation. They fused old Jewish interpretation with the Christian faith, and were teaching that the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven meant that Christians need not obey the “earthy” powers, since they were part of the Kingdom of Heaven. Paul, Peter, and many of the other apostles had to push back against this. If you read the book of Romans beginning to end, you will see that its focal point, like Jesus, is the Kingdom of Heaven; why it had to come, why it came through Israel but was open to Gentiles also, how it redeems the fallen world and finally, how the Christian is to live as a citizen of this new Kingdom. Part of this included a section on how we, though citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, still need to follow the lawful orders of the old one. It does not, however, say that the authority of the old kingdom is absolute, only that it still has some authority to do some things. Since it is still of the old kingdom, the old kingdom rules still apply, including those of limited authority, and the importance of keeping authority in its place.
Think about it like this – if Paul wanted to make a statement commanding total obedience and non-resistance to earthly powers, he chose a horrible way to do it; there are numerous qualifiers clearly indicating the scope and purpose of earthly authority, and had he wanted to command total obedience, he could have done so in far fewer words; “Obey the institutions in everything, for this is what the Lord has commanded” or something along those lines – he does not. Furthermore, such a command would have been a ridiculous contradiction, because Christianity was illegal both at the Roman and the Jewish level, so a command to follow the governing authorities in everything would have meant a cessation of a lot of Churchly activities. That did not happen, so we can conclude that is not what he meant.
At the end of the day, it takes a lot more work and a lot less logic to pull a non-resistance to tyranny conclusion out of Romans 13 than it does to accept the classical interpretation; that we are to obey any order that an authority is authorized to give, and also required to make sure such authorities do not overstep their bounds.
sneakypete wrote: the ultimate consequence of our decision(s) is eternity in Heaven or Hell. This should give everyone pause and carefully consider the choices we make.
Yes, and also no. First of all, even if resisting an authority was something that we are never allowed to do, that does not mean we risk damnation by so doing – our salvation is not found in how well we obey but in trusting Christ’s work on our behalf. Resisting an authority, even unlawfully, does not put this in jeopardy.
Secondly, it is also important to remember that God gave His Word so that we could understand what He commands. He is not shrouding His expectations in mystery and then expecting us to sleuth them out. While He does expect us to study and think on a level befitting mature adults, Scripture is written to be understood and it can be understood, truly though not exhaustively. As such, if we have done our homework and our research well, and our logic is sound, and our argument supported by scripture, we can trust our interpretation with reasonable confidence. To that end, I stand by all ten points as I listed above.
Billy wrote: If you feel justified to stand before God someday in the future and recount those actions, then do it, He forgives,
I want to clarify something here. Yes, He forgives. Having said that, He also holds people to account for everything they have done, and He expects us to, using our heart, soul, strength, and mind, *know* what it good. There are a lot of people out there holding very wrong opinions about God and His commands that are just flat dead wrong, and they will answer for such false opinions one day.
We must teach our children to stand on convictions. We must also teach them to vet their convictions, examine them in light of truth, and purge the ones that are false. To teach them to stand without teaching them to evaluate is not the wisest idea.
Not accusing you of this by the way. Just something that bears more careful consideration than it is often given.