Three Historical Obstacles to Further Reformation and the Kingdom’s Further Release
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” —Matthew 16:23
This Scripture is far more fascinating than we have time to fully unpack. Suffice to say, Jesus is noting that Satan had a plan for mankind and that plan appeared to have enough potential “good” in it to carry away multiple angels and surreptitiously huge amounts of mankind throughout history. I suspect that the catastrophe of the Fall shocked Satan himself. The point of this is that Satan, speaking through Peter, wants man to have a perfect earthly future someday just like Jesus does, but without Jesus and the events and principles of the cross as its centering point.
This satanic plan repeatedly shows up in history as the quest for a utopian society providing mankind a “heaven” on earth through enlightened social policy. Sin, being rejected as a systemic issue incapable of being resolved by further education or social restructuring as Judeo-Christianity maintains, is now left to the world system to find a re-engineered solution. Enter a host of historical “saviors,” none more relevant for this discussion than Karl Marx. To Marx’s credit, many of his concerns remain as current social topics, not the least of which are the challenges the power of capitalistic economics have given us and their increasing drive of politics and culture.
I understand that Marx is typically considered the conservative “boogie man.” However, the point is not “left” or “right,” but rather the enormous challenge bright people with utopian social theories pose not just to political accommodation but to a genuine dialogue itself. Indeed, utopianism reflects Satan himself which is why intellectual arguments aren’t possible with those buried in them. So-called “progressivism” carries within in strong elements of these historical roots which are sometimes revealed with hatred, mockery, and violence. Revolution is the common mode of leftist utopianism and the rarity of the right (the American experience).
Though we as Christians have a conviction of Christ’s return and a perfect future earth, that is not our current focus. Therefore, our place in this global dialogue requires us to understand that the remedy to utopian thinking is not superior rationality but effective intercession. We don’t fight spiritual entrapment with logic but with Spirit-inspired prayer. We must similarly be clear that our role in the current dialogue is neither perfectionism nor a demand for what we cannot yet have in terms of our proposals of public policy being quickly embraced without the principle of choice politically and the cross personally. The good news is that the malfunction of the current left-right controls are broken and that reformation is birthed by new solutions to old problems.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. —Matthew 24:14
Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” —Matthew 13:30
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” —Matthew 13:47-50
These Scriptures give us three explicit truths we need to guide us on this assignment of helping to mid-wife the birth of the next reformation. The first deals with the issue of the final coming of Christ’s return and the fulfillment of the Kingdom coming to earth, and the fact that it will not require a full-blown Christian society. In Matthew 24:14, Jesus creates a clear distinction between “the end” and the time preceding that which he says will only require a “witness,” not a complete take-over. In contrast, utopianism gave Marxists and Hitler the permission and motivation to exterminate millions of citizens perceived as obstacles to the vision of utopian “progress.”
Based on Mathew 13:30, the second thing we can be clear on is that the world system and the Kingdom of God will co-rule the world until the end of this age. Great! God wisely set this game up on results-based reality. Let’s see what results they each produce.
The third thing we can count on as the reformation process rolls out is also great news! The Kingdom message will eventually overtake both the Church and large sectors of humanity (Mathew 25:31-46) and co-exist until “the witness” Christ speaks of is powerful enough to end the cosmic conflict (Mathew 13:47-50).
Square Two: The Place of Christ In the Public Square
The hostility between liberalism and religion is as old as modern liberalism itself. Virtually all of the great, modern liberal theorists—Hobbes, Voltaire, Bentham, Jefferson, Paine, the Mills, and Constant—were either opposed to religion or sceptical of it, and were unanimous in urging its exclusion from the exercise of political power. The importance of the battle to rid politics of “priests” and “mysteries” becomes clear once it is recalled that the emergence of early modern democratic ideas and movements closely accompanied the emergence of religious sectarianism and was deeply influenced by Protestant notions of voluntary church organization, an engaged laity, and everyman (and woman) as an interpreter of Scripture. More important, popular religion in the United States continues to retain a powerful hold over ordinary citizens. – Sheldon S. Wolin, “Politics & Vision”
Politically reluctant as we may be, how people relate to Christ (or any other absolute or transcendent person or issue) is the tap-root or cornerstone of their worldview. While there are complexities and exceptions, the essential foundations intellectually of the left are resting on a continuing pursuit of marginalizing Christ’s claims on man and history and giving religion no public place at all in the culture.
As a life-long student of political theory, the list of the left’s chief influencers would be long, indeed, and full of strategic vitriol if we were to go there. Some of the most influential “fathers” to liberal’s history—and the ones who most represent how liberalism morphed into authoritarian “progressivism”—would have to include Rousseau, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Fromm, and Sartre. You may have others you strongly feel belong on this short list, but for reasons of my own, these men belong for sure. In cultural history, they all progressively added their attacks on “religion”(Christianity) and sought to free society from the inclusion of its influence directly or indirectly.
To be sure, numbers of influential people along the way in what has become the mainline left have had religious faith in different forms. Nevertheless, the left’s intellectuals, educators, political-party activists, and media view Christians as political obstacles to freedom and the left’s political agenda. Fruit reveals the roots, and as one who was in the new left, I can assure you that the majority opinion of Christianity is one of disdain, at best, and aggressiveness for many. Try to speak at a university almost anywhere as an identified Christian and you will experience what the left has produced as “children.”
Square Three: Scripture, Not Political Parties, Must Determine Our Principle-Based Policies
In terms of policy or defining root-issues, neither the political right nor the political left are our instructors. Obviously, there are many very bright and experienced people in both camps and many who feel trapped themselves in a sea of platitudes and contrived systemic entanglements. When it comes to policy, however, our reasoning process begins with the Scripture, continues by seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance for application, then references lessons from related history and results-based applications. Party platforms are of interest for many reasons, but they are to be measured by the above process.
We start here in the United States with the misinformation carried by both parties, but especially the left, regarding the separation of church and state. As informed citizens, I will assume you know this protection issue was actually about protecting the church from the incursions of the state. If, as promised, President Trump helps get the Johnson Amendment removed, it will send a redefined signal as to what the Constitution actually says. But let’s face it, the Church’s distorted pietism did significant damage to the Kingdom’s call to disciple nations. Today is a new day. Thank God and the pioneers who helped us get here.
In conclusion, let’s review the summary points regarding modern-day reformation and inducements to its birth:
● Biblical worldview produces reformation when applied to society properly and following God’s process of gradualism.
● The Great Commandment is our political foundation (Mathew 23:37-40).
● Historically, utopianism leads to natural and spiritual authoritarianism.
● A fallen world needs redemption in all human affairs.
● Scripture, not political parties, is our starting point for determining policy that will truly empower people.
● We have a huge task in informing Christian leaders and those they influence.
Originally published on the Bottom Line.