Monday, May 25, 2009
As promised, I want to discuss this whole notion of nothing else mattering but Greatest Commandments — "love God and love your neighbor."
To set the stage, I'll post a clip from a recent dispute I had with an Emergent leftist on this issue. He thinks those who take conservative positions on welfare, immigration and the use of force are disobeying these commands. Said my disputant:
These two commands are central the the gospel message. So, they are primary. Christ himself says that the entire law rests upon these two commands.
There was more to what he said, but that comment was the central plank. Here's how I replied:
Okay. Now we must flesh out what "loving God and loving our neighbor" means, and to whom that command is addressed. We also need to understand what the purpose of the law was, and is.
As I have pointed out before, loving God includes keeping His commandments. That includes revering ALL of His Word, not just the "love and mercy" parts of it. We agree that the needy should be helped, but we disagree in how to help them. You seem to think a statist solution -- including redistribution of wealth and confiscatory taxation, is the only viable option. I do not believe the Bible teaches that.
I think you get what the state is supposed to do confused with what the church -- and we as individual Christians -- are to do. Just because we do not believe in statist solutions is no grounds to charge us with failure to "love our neighbor."
Even the examples you cite of the Good Samaritan and Prodigal Son are lessons for individuals, most notably believers. Neither the Samaritan or the father of the Prodigal acted as entities of the state. They acted as individuals. The state is called to a different role.
Churches historically have had wonderful outreaches to the poor and needy, as have private individuals. The government has usurped a role that is not proper. You cannot force someone to be charitable. In fact, the way the government handles resources and manages programs ought to frighten anyone away from statist solutions. Remember that Scripture says that God loves a cheerful giver? Note that it says "giver." Confiscatory taxation is not giving. It is "legal" stealing and denies the individual laborer the fruit of his labor, by which he can also bless others.
Now, in terms of other commands of Scripture being "secondary." I ask you again to consider Romans 13 and what the state has been ordained by God to do. It is to be a terror to evildoers and bearer of the sword. When the state performs those functions legitimately, it is an outworking of God's justice AND His love.
It is important to remember that God's love is NEVER at the expense of His justice. At times, it is necessary for a sovereign state to use its military to protect its citizens. That means killing people and breaking things. When you have someone like a Hitler, a Mussolini, a Hussein, or some other monstrous figure who brutalizes their own people or invades other peaceful nations (including your own), it is just and thoroughly biblical to oppose them, both in philosophy and in use of lethal force. It is also thoroughly biblical and appropriate for an individual to use lethal force to protect others if there is no government entity able or around to do it.
You cite Philippians 2 and what Paul says about "looking after the interests of others." I would ask you to look at the context of that passage. This passage has to do with believers as individuals and the church corporate. It has nothing to do with statism.
My disputant summed himself up by saying this (because he's been rebuked for his language):
When we are more offended by another term for 'butt' than we are by the fact that we have starving kids in America, then our gospel message has very little gospel. To allow the first and second command to be replaced by secondary issues creates a gospel that has very little to offer a hurting world in desperate need of a Saviour.
My reply? I said:
Again, you say "replace" the first and second commandments. Not so fast. No one is "replacing" anything. Can't you understand that obeying Scripture and the working out of God's other commands are all a part of obeying the first and second commands? Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep my commandments." That means all of Scripture, not just the parts you like such as the Beatitudes. The same God that says to love your neighbor is the same God that legitimized the use of the sword. He is also the same God that said, through Paul, "if a man will not work, don't let him eat." The modern welfare state only encourages more poverty, not less. We should have learned that lesson with Lyndon Johnson.
As to the language issue, yes. Profanity and obscenity offends me, and it should offend you. I've been trying very hard to clean up my own speech in the knowledge that it grieves the Lord who commanded us not to talk that way. Remember, He said if we love Him, keep His commandments. Including the one about the language we use.
Sola's note: This probably isn't the last of this ongoing back and forth. Some might even say I'm wasting my time. But these people are infiltrating previously sound churches, and they need to be challenged. All too often, we allow ourselves to be intimidated or cowed into silence.