NSA and Christianity: The Case for Concern (Part 2)

Part 1 is here.

Possible Reasons for Dearth of Concern in Evangelical Circles

Why has there been such a low level of practicable Christian notice, concern and resistance to the dangers of the Authoritarian Omniscient State? This is particularly peculiar since artifacts abound that American Christians are facing noticeable and increasing depredations from such Power. 

Paul Washer warned of coming persecution.

The church in America is going to suffer so terribly. And we laugh now but they will come after us they will come after our children. They will close the net around us while we are playing soccer mom and soccer dad. While we are arguing over so many little things and mesmerized by so many trinkets, the net even now is closing around you and your children and your grandchildren and it does not cause you to fear.1

Many are the virgins who lack oil as they are aroused from their somnolence. Many are mesmerized by so many trinkets. Sad to say, I notice this on my web blog, with an inordinate interest on articles sexual. This is not an ill, in and of itself. But inordinate predominance is troubling.

As noted in the previous write-up, some Evangelicals indulge in other-worldly separatism, oblivious to the perils and pains outside their own subcultural gated community. They hope that the angel of oppression and persecution will Passover their church community, huddled in hidden valleys. Duck and cover. Perhaps, if we don’t protest too much, they might leave us alone in our irrelevance.

Some are besieged and paralyzed by eschatological and predestinarian fatalism. These things shall occur. It is written. Doing something is futility. Are we not fighting the Sovereign Will of God (as if we were privy to that Will)? Although falsely accredited to Martin Luther, there is still virtue and prudence in the quote “even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. If doing good and resisting evil is virtuous in general, doing good and resisting evil is virtuous even unto the last day before Judgment.

A Sixth Tenet of Calvinist

Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And you, Capernaum, which are exalted to heaven, shall be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in you, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.2

I am a 6+ point Calvinist, or Spurgeonist, taking a cue from Paul Washer. I suggest that T.U.L.I.P. is heretical, not because any of its tenets are incorrect. Rather, in truncating the full understanding of the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God into bullet points, it has distorted the understanding of that doctrine (as do all creeds and confessions inherently).

One unintended distortion tends to logically veer adherents towards HyperCalvinist presumption. Because those, who are Elected by God will be saved and/or come to God regardless of our actions, we can sit on our arse, ‘pissing the night away’3. However, from the above quote by Christ, it would infer that many will be found to have not come to Christ because although their hearts were ready, there was none to lead them to Christ and salvation. “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”4 Some of the reasons will be because of these HyperCalvinist who sit on their arse, ‘pissing the night away’ in Calvinist presumption. The Sovereignty of God is not violated in this assertion. For, rather than God not intervening insufficiently in the hearts of the recipient to receive the message, it will be a matter of God not intervening sufficiently in the hearts of the sender to transmit the message. God is still Sovereign who “will have mercy on whom [He] will have mercy, and [He] will have compassion on whom [He] will have compassion”5. However, the man who disobeyed the commanded will of God in presuming upon the Sovereign Will of God will be found wanting and judged. It is one of labyrinthine conundrums that a Calvinist can be ensnared by and (frankly go mad) when they attempt to operate at the unmediated existential level of the Sovereign God, of whose Will, we are not privy, instead of merely being informed by this Will. More on this will be elucidated in a different article.

From, the standpoint of eschatological or predestinarian fatalism, it might be found on Judgment Day that the very reason that the whole world fell into the Authoritarian surveillance state or the hands of the Antichrist, will be (partially) because of this dependence on fatalism that paralyzed resistance by those who were supposed to resist. (This is not a categorical statement; just making a polemical point.) There is a movie segment in the Wachowskis “The Matrix” that is sheer brilliance. The Oracle predicts that Neo will break a vase, which Neo subsequently does. She then states “What’s really going to bake your noodle later on is, would you still have broken it if I hadn’t said anything.”6 When we attempt to live by the premises of certain prophesy, we fall insanely into logical labyrinthine conundrums and ethical travesties.

And thus we could change T.U.L.I.P. into T.U.L.I.P.E. (E for evangelism) for acronym remembrance; TULIPE being a French translation of the flower, which is grown en masse in Ottawa and Gatineau, Quebec. However, even this partial distillation of the doctrine would remain heretical, by virtue of truncation.

That these things will be as prophesied, I have no doubt. But we are duty bound not to be a contributor to the realization of that prophecy.

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Many have pointed out that those who depend on the Rapture to avoid the Tribulation, in part or in whole, are prone to become disinterested in worldly affairs and their Godly duty to demonstrate the glory of the Kingdom in their dealings with the elements of this world. I have seen much evidence of this claim and declamation. And although I had once subscribed to this largely 19th Century doctrinal innovation; after I held a higher standard of evidential proof, that being of the witness of 2 or 3 incontrovertible Scriptural references, this Rapture theology fell by the wayside. Why should North American Evangelical princes and princesses avoid what is occurring everywhere else in the world? If one does not wholeheartedly count on this prophecy, one, at least, will not be unduly surprised or unprepared if doesn’t happen. Nevertheless, the ‘Lutheran’ maxim still holds. If doing good and resisting evil is virtuous in general, doing good and resisting evil is virtuous even unto the last day before Judgment.

Some, in recent times, emit of a weariness of the mean-spirited culture wars. They wish to withdraw from their station on the battle line. Others are wary of being exploited as useful idiots yet again by the sociopolitical factions, to whom Evangelical Christianity has allowed itself to be united and co-opted. This latter is legitimate concern and worthy of thoughtful rumination.

Christianity and Politics

A cursory review, of Christian involvement with politics and social causes, could not do proper justice to this long and involved subject; a concern of great personal study and rumination before reaching the following “conclusion of the matter”7. There exists no such thing as a credible and coherent Christian politics on this side of Judgment Day.

On three occasions, Christ repudiated, fled or denied a kingdom for Himself in this worldly realm.8 Such a kingdom would require weapons of this world to bring to pass; a requirement, which the Scriptures soundly forbids and characterizes as futile.9 In light of the scriptural repudiation of the use of coercive social and political power, it is inconceivable how such a Christian commonwealth could ever be constructed and maintained, while remaining scrupulously faithful to the New Covenant and New Testament scriptures.

Our task is to persuade and woo to the Kingdom, (and warn/threaten as last resorts), not coerce or manipulate. And the history of the Hebrew state serves as a practical example of the inherent futility of the attempt to construct an earthly kingdom of righteousness, established by external regulation, political construct and artifice and human leadership. The course of Gentile nations and civilizations has only confirmed this futility. And a central seminal message of the Gospel involves the truth that human virtue and the common social good rests ultimately on the regenerative transformation of human hearts; not on external sociopolitical coercion and devices.

Before the Constantinian travesty of Milan (313 A.D.), which corrupt Hellenized bishops prostrated and prostituted themselves before Caesaropapism, there is little Christian political theory, involvement in sociopolitical causes/movements or feints to achieve a postmillennialist kingdom. Therefore, if in the earliest Christians, those most faithful to its Founder, there is no hint of political Christianity, why should Christians be involved now?

It could be argued that lack of Christian involvement in the Roman Empire, prior to the Edict of Toleration was simply a consequence of political realities. There was no broad-based politics to speak of after Augustus (27 B.C. – 14 A.D.), and especially after Septimus Severus (193 – 211 A.D.) came to power. Unlike during the days of the Roman Republic, there was general lack of opportunity and interest in affairs of state. That may be true at the Empire level. It was less true at the municipal level, at least initially. (That declined with the steady centralization of even municipal functions to the Empire and its governors and bureaucracy.)

This is a historical relativism argument; one which is dangerous because it repudiates Scriptural admonitions on the basis of extra-Biblical or arbitrary criteria. It furthermore subjects the Scriptures to the competency and honesty of e historians or the caprice of what documentation remains extant. Furthermore, we know that most early Christians held a principled position against involvement in military or government service, because of a separatist disdain for the evil Empire and desire not to be besmirched in the association and participation of this evil state. There is evidence through the Diocletian (284-305 A.D.) persecutions, that this disdain was not so universal. Many Christians were discovered in the state bureaucracies, who were subsequently terminated, in one way or another.

Another argument that could be mustered is; if an opportunity is afforded a person to ethically improve one’s lot, including the social lot under which a Christian lives, would it not be an abdication of duty and love not to seize the opportunity? Would we not be displaying the glory of the Kingdom of God in such endeavours? What if the society or its state organs ‘steals’ away the lawful authority and autonomy, that is naturally given to private individuals and entities (a.k.a. inalienable rights)? Should we placidly surrender any say in these areas of life, which was ours at one time, when the public invades and expropriates private realms and jurisdictions?

Lacking an actual specific prohibition in the New Covenant and New Testament scriptures, one must not “go beyond what is written” to denounce civic participation. But there is great call for circumspection and subtle and nuanced wisdom in the use of civic participation; something that has been sadly lacking in these last several decades or more.

Theological constructs of Christian political theory are still bantered about. Regardless of Christian sanction given to them in past particularly, these remain extra Biblical. I can think of four main ones: Caesaropapism (a.k.a. two swords theory), two kingdoms theory (Luther), separation of church and state and recently theonomy. They will ultimately fail out of their own lack of Scriptural warrant and their internal self-contradictions, arbitrariness, inconsistencies, etc. Furthermore, I believe it impossible to fashion a commonwealth that can be sustainably applied to both the regenerate and unregenerate.

Let’s consider just two of the historical Protestant/Evangelical political constructs. The “two kingdoms” theory demands that the conscience is sacrosanct and beyond the intrusion and judgment of civic authorities. However, one’s actual conduct is subject to state regulation. It is largely by this folly, that marriage, considered a worldly thing by Luther and the Reformers, was surrendered over to civic jurisdiction. The problem is that faith demands that one acts in accordance with those premises that one confesses to believing and subscribing. It is otherwise not faith (or “dead faith” – James 2). It would be like saying that the army commandant at Auschwitz could maintain his good conscience in believing that the gassing of the Jews is wrong, all the while pulling the switch to start the process.

The “separation of church and state” theory falls down with the creep of civic legislative jurisdiction over an increasing scope of private affairs, as the history of the United States attests in these last two centuries. (“Yes, you can govern your children”, says the civic authorities, “but according to our perspective of proper child rearing, even if that violates your convictions and conscience”.) By this, private individuals and entities become the executors of the public perspective, however that is fashioned. Of course, in this systematic preclusion of any principles and values that might derive from spiritual sources, this is an inherent self-serving formula for triumphalism of the secularist faction, atheistic social tyranny and marginalization of a large segment of society. One can hear in this, the old cry “taxation without representation” and an inevitable dynamic toward civil war by the disenfranchised.

What is evident through these examples or even in the run up to the Financial Panic of 2008 is that external regulations and political constructs/artifices are Maginot Lines, which the evil genius of men can always find a way to circumvent around, over or under or compromise.10 The New Testament, especially the Book of Hebrews, intimates the weakness and futility of dependence on external regulations because of the heart of man.

Thus, in conclusion, it should not be thought that there is a viable Christian “politics”, which can sustain the buffeting of unregenerate mankind. One ought not to place much reliance upon politicized Christianity.

This does not imply that Christianity (or even Judaism) has no counsel to contribute to the sociopolitical order. But such counsel that there is to offer, might be better thought of as ad hoc and relevant to existing conditions of any sociopolitical milieu.

“Pursue peace with all men.”11 However, the manner by which peace must be pursued differs with the times. I deem it necessary to pursue temporal constructs to counteract the extreme organic imbalance in economic power between corporations and labour that contributes to the extreme and increasing economic and subsequently sociopolitical disparity. Extreme alienation between the classes will, as it has often in the historical past, lead to class warfare and civic conflagration. It will force a ruder and harsher society that seeks to keep the raging ‘proletariat’ at bay. Many other various evils will attend excessive economic disparity. Nevertheless, these constructs would not have been necessary in 18th Century America.

In the present era, in things highlighted by the NSA revelations, Judeo-Christianity has much to proffer. It can counsel with regard to plain rendering of Constitutions and the evils of Jesuitical sophistry that misshapen laws and constitutions into Kafkaesque inscrutability; by which no man is safe and secure when he knows not by what principles, he is governed. The large part of the theological history of the Church consists in contending against disingenuous interpretation, which invariably leads to practicable historical travesty and atrocity.

Christian history can speak of the rule of law (Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) “lex is rex” (Law is King), which nowadays through judicial contortionism, our society is becoming an arbitrary rule by deceitful and mendacious men.

But this is not intentioned to impose a Christian commonwealth. Rather, as a handmaiden to the Gospel, we demonstrate such principles that govern the Kingdom of God. We exemplify His glory in the public realm. We improve the lot of all men by upholding general principles, not merely ones that are conducive to our Churchianity subcultural enclave. Failure to do so is a Christian abdication of duty and love.

◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊

Evangelical Christians have been largely and woefully foolish in their civic participation since the resurgence of interest in the late 1970s after decades of separatism. And perhaps in that folly, many an Evangelical seeks to return to separatism. However, the wolf is at the door. The secular world, having now achieved most of its public aims of marginalizing Christian values from the public square, will now seek to impose their atheistic and nihilistic cosmological perspective and ethical mores upon Christians in the private realms. The answer is not to retreat but to wizen up.

As much as like Francis Schaeffer, his theological innovation of “co-belligerence” has proven, as I feared at the time, to become a backdoor to becoming unequally yoked with unbelievers. Thereby, Evangelical Christianity has become co-opted by conservativism and the Republican Party; corrupted in similar fashion as the Constantinian bishops of the late Roman Empire. There is a certain timidity is speaking truth to power, less we give our ideological and sociopolitical adversaries advantage. There is certain timidity in speaking truth to our sociopolitical allies (a.k.a. co-belligerents) less we weaken our alliances. Thereby, we are prone to protect the mendacious and corrupt amongst ourselves and our allies, as a lesser of two evils.

Hereby, Evangelicalism and the Gospel and Full Counsel of God are smeared with the same brush by association with such unbelievers and their mendacities and corruptions. Sufficient is the evil that occurs within Evangelical circles. We need not own those outside of our subculture.

Hereby is begotten such dilution of the Gospel and the Full Counsel of God. Our own adherents are given superficial pap and confusion as to that which differentiates the Evangelical and Biblical tradition from that of our allies.

Hereby, by such syncretism with conservative values, the Evangelical Church has become pharisaically moralistic and oppressively toxic. We mix a religious and religiously-inspired ethical self-righteousness with a capitalist self-righteousness.

Hereby, Evangelicalism has no longer a distinct voice. Evangelicals are believed to bring the numbers, headless zeal and enthusiasm, while say, according to so-called Gary Bauer11, the Catholics bring the brains.

Hereby, Evangelicalism loses clarity of vision of the Word of God, which is filtered and besmirched with the specks and planks of world-weary ideologies.

As a first step, I would desire that all true Evangelicals withdraw from their sociopolitical whoredoms, in which they are engaged; to become an independent voice, not compromised and corrupted by unwise alliances.

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Another unfortunate proclivity by even the most faithful Evangelicals is to separate private ethics from the public. Thus, as I have written elsewhere, Mark Driscoll and other preachers will demand that the young male man-up and get married and have children and have a productive career. All the while, in his seemingly conservative politics, he fails to address a legal regime and social milieu that is materially and psychologically tilted too adversely against the young male to make marriage, childen an occupational success worthwhile.

The Christian must become good and faithful employees. Thus, more in alignment with an increasingly anachronistic American “rags-to-riches” fantasy than true reality, we shall succeed in all that we do if only we are virtuous and industrious. However, we dwell in a society by which corporatism is denigrating and diminishing all others in their self-serving lust of concentrated wealth and power and by the liberal secular statism, which is denigrating and diminishing Christians and religionists in their secularist pursuit for dominance of the Commanding Heights of society. There is much evidence of collusion between these gigantic forces in recent decades as all other private individuals and entities are squeezed between these monoliths.

Failure to acknowledge and address the objective realities in the public realm, in this foolish myopic concern from private ethics alone, is an abdication of Christian duty and love.

Tim Challies preaches a homily that God is in control.12 We ought not to be worried about those things that are coming upon the earth. I heartily agree with the sentiment. Whether we are successful or not in reversing the adverse trends, our times are still in God’s hands. However, we are still obligated to reverse the adverse trends; if only to demonstrate the glory and principles of the Kingdom of God. Even as the world devolves; there may be some for whom that Glory is made apparent by our handmaiden actions.

◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊

In this segment, I have attempted to disabuse all the rationalizations, many of them of legitimate concern, by which Evangelicalism is failing to give voice to the troubling aspects of the NSA revelations and the onset of the Omniscient Surveillance State.

The next and last segment seeks to directly tie increasing Christian deprivations, depredations and persecutions, albeit mild at the present moment, to “the architecture of oppression”, to the soft totalitarianism, that the Omniscient Surveillance State poses and prefigures.

The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.13

 

 

©Copyright Johhny Hutchinson

 

 

NOTES

1.       Paul Washer, “Persecution or a Great Awakening”, October 2008, Accessed http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7UyZYpeReY on June 20, 2013.

2.       Matthew 11:21-24

3.       For those horrified by vulgarisms more than vice, the expression ‘pissing the night away’ is a British idiom meaning drinking all night. See Tubthumping, Chumbawamba (song), 2006.

4.       Matthew 9:37

5.       Romans 9:15

6.       Larry and Andy Wachowski, The Matrix, 1999.

7.       Ecclesiastes 12:13

8.       Matthew 4:8-9, John 6:15, 18:36

9.       2 Corinthians 10:3-5

10.   Maginot Line was the static French defense system of fortresses to face the Germans before the Second World War. The Nazis simply, like as in the First World War, circumvented them with a flanking move through Belgium.

11.   Hebrews 12:14

12.   “There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.”

11.  Gary Bauer, “Why evangelicals should care about new pope: Column”, USA Today, May 13, 2013, Accessed http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/03/13/gary-bauer-on-why-pope-is-important-to-evangelicals/1985291/ on June 20, 2013.

121.   Tim Challies, “ Fear God More Than the NSA”, …Informing the Reforming, June 12, 2013, Accessed http://www.challies.com/articles/fear-god-more-than-the-nsa as of June 20, 2013.

13.   Romans 13:11

 

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