Tuesday, July 18, 2006

God's Plan B to Change the World

I got this email from a person running an evangelical missionary team. (Apologies if I've violated any courtesies or copyright laws by pasting it here.) We were discussing the turmoil in the world today.
"The amazing things though is that our people say that the crazier things get the more people realize that this world's system does not have answers to the world's problems and that the only answer is becoming a part of the kingdom of God."
I have a number of responses:
  1. On one hand, God once said to the apostle Paul, and may possibly say to some of us in our physical suffering, "My grace is sufficient for thee."
  2. I remember Bonhoeffer saying in Cost of Discipleship that for the AntiChrist, all spiritual concerns are reduced to temporal ones such that "everything is political." That is, authentic Christianity invariably has a component of being fixed on the hereafter.
  3. A consequence of the doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin is that there won't ever be an end to poverty or injustice or war until Christ comes again.
  4. There is great wisdom in the Lutheran concepts of Right and Left Kingdoms, in that the church has the job to speak on spiritual matters and the state to keep temporal order. Indeed, article 28 of the Augsburg Confession states:
    "Therefore the power of the Church and the civil power must not be confounded. The power of the Church has its own commission to teach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments. Let it not break into the office of another; Let it not transfer the kingdoms of this world; let it not abrogate the laws of civil rulers."
  5. On the other hand, my guess is that for every one nontheist who gets saved because they see the world's mess from the crises at hand, there are four nontheists who will completely reject the Church because they see it indifferent or complicit with the suffering, and it's very easy to make the case for that this week of all weeks.
  6. Exodus 3:7:
    "The LORD said, 'I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.'
    Let's not invent an imaginary God that isn't deeply saddened by suffering.
  7. While the church has no standing to tell the state how to keep order, it has the Office of the Keys, which are about sin. It is about informing folks of the spiritual consequences of things, and the Spiritual Remedy-- the Cross-- that has been made available to us.
  8. Martin Luther wrote at length about the spiritual consequences of current events in his day. He wrote "An Admonition to Peace" and "Whether Soldiers, Too, May be Saved." These are gravely serious documents as he calls out specific actions in wartime as being a work of the devil, or an offense that sends one to Hell if one dies committing the act. Luther here I do not believe is "abrogating the laws of civil rulers" but preaching the gospel. Law and gospel. Pointing folks to the Cross by pointing out the fallenness of humankind.
  9. What about Wilbeforce's preaching on slavery or ML King's preaching on racism? Are they errants or champions of the faith, now?
  10. How does one make any sense of this idea of "Gospel" and "being saved from sins" if the things that deeply offend the heart are no big whoop to God-- they surely get no press time from the Church? This I think is the biggest anti-apologetic for Christianity. Luther said, "By making our sins small, we make Christ small."
  11. The Christian view of Atonement is a sure path to temporal peace in my view. We could say to folks,
    "Yes your enemy has done gravely abominable things that offend the Lord. Leave temporal vengeance up to the Lord and accept that through Christ's work on the cross, God's wrath is truly spent, but on Christ Himself. Both for your enemies' misdeeds and those of your own, which are innumerable."
Pray for us.

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