CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

On Biblical Cooperation and Separation

Nov 27, 2009

As always in the Christian life, there are all sorts of important questions which have to be carefully thought through, prayed about, and discussed with others. Broad, general Biblical principles often have to be teased out in terms of application and appropriation.

One such question involves how much Christians can and should work together and associate with non-believers. It is actually part of a much bigger discussion concerning how the church is to act in the world. It raises issues of how much we need to separate from surrounding secular culture, and how much we are to involve ourselves in it.

It is a huge question involving all sorts of related issues, and cannot be fully discussed here. I have treated aspects of this debate elsewhere.

This post in fact is a spin-off from some comments and discussion which arose over my article on the Manhattan Declaration. While heaps of well-known and faithful Christian leaders have been signing the Declaration, a few noted evangelical leaders are refusing to do so.

Their main complaints are two-fold: cooperating with those of other Christian denominations may involve compromise and a diminution of the gospel proclamation; and the preaching of the gospel should be our only main task, not getting involved in social and political issues.

The latter point I have dealt with on many other occasions on this site, so I will not deal with it again here. As to the former, much of what this involves has to do with the issue of co-belligerency. To one friendly critic who questioned cooperating with non-Christians, or with those Christians with whom we have major theological disagreements, I replied with the following nine paragraphs:

“I am of course an evangelical Protestant. I make no apologies for that, and I have not tried to hide that fact. Therefore I will obviously have some theological differences with Catholics. But that is true of other types of Christians as well: I will also have plenty of theological differences with the Orthodox, and even with other Protestants. Indeed, I can often disagree with fellow evangelicals.

“While any reader of this site will certainly see that I put a premium on truth and sound theology, it is also clear that I see the great value of co-belligerency. If we do not work together on so many of these crucial issues, we will simply lose everything.

“Thus while genuine theological differences will always exist, if we can find some common ground to unite against the greater enemies, that is my preference here in this website and in my ministry. Indeed, I am involved with various pro-family and pro-life coalitions which include all sorts of groups which do not agree on a theological level, but have come together for limited, temporary, and tactical reasons, and have been willing to lay aside theological issues, to work for important issues.

“Thus I have worked with Muslims, Mormons, Moonies and all sorts of other groups on some of these limited, tactical and short-term projects. I have no problems with that. The important thing is to take on some of these major challenges we face.

“Indeed, many of these battles are too big for us to quarrel amongst ourselves, while letting the other side get away with murder. And of course co-belligerency is by definition a short-term working together for specific purposes on a specific issue. It has nothing to do with compromising, or abandoning one’s beliefs, etc.

“This has worked wonderfully on the international level. For example when radical feminists, pro-aborts and homosexuals are trying to push something, say, at the UN, it is often a coalition of pro-life and pro-family groups, along with the Muslim voting bloc, and the Vatican, that have combined and successfully defeated their initiatives time and time again.

“The truth is, in these culture wars, if we first come out with a long list of criteria and beliefs that we have to check off before we work with someone else, we will very soon be down to a handful of like-minded folk. I have disagreements with all sorts of people at times. But if I demanded complete agreement on every theological point, then I would be a club of one. And I don’t even agree with myself all the time!

“So we need to learn to work together with others wherever possible, bearing in mind the bigger war we are in. This may not always be possible, but when it is, then let’s go for it.

“I hope this answers your questions. Not all evangelicals will be happy with my response. That is fine. I have to do what I feel is right, and what I sense the Lord is leading me to do. But in some of these areas we may have to agree to disagree.”

Cooperation and Separation

My critic responded, in part, with these words: “I would still retain some serious concerns over close cooperation with openly non- or anti-Christian groups (which does often include certain conservative groups and religious movements by implication) based on where it may gradually lead and what effect it may have on the clarity of well-expressed, Christian orthodoxy over a period of time.”

Again, there is much that can be said in reply to this. Indeed, whole books have been written on the topic. So let me offer a few more brief thoughts. Those conversant with church history will of course be quite familiar with this topic, and will know of many examples of how this issue has been approached.

Christians have had plenty of differing responses to such concerns. Somewhat recently, for example, theological liberalism has tended to be quite happy with complete association with non-Christians, and seems to have little concern about watering down the gospel to do so.

On the other extreme, fundamentalists of the early twentieth century made it a determined point to withdraw and separate as much as possible from the surrounding culture, and to refuse to work with those regarded as not being of sufficient theological purity.

That whole debate cannot here be pursued, but a handful of remarks can be made. Much of this discussion boils down to certain texts, preeminent of which is 2 Cor. 6:14: ‘Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers’. (See vv. 14-18 for the fuller context.)

While much ink has been spilt on how exactly we apply this passage, many have thought that at a minimum this verse forbids Christians from marrying non-Christians, or perhaps going into a close business association with them, and so on.

Or as my critic said, he was concerned about, “close cooperation with openly non- or anti-Christian groups”. So how do we tease this out? How far do we go? What exactly does all this entail? We are of course told in Scripture that we are in the world, but not to be of it. But again, how we flesh this truth out is often unclear, and a matter of much debate.

For example, how are we to understand the concept of “close cooperation”? What about giving money to decidedly non-Christian and at times anti-Christian businesses and services? Of course the truth is, Christians do this every day of the week. When we buy petrol for the car, do we first enquire about the religious status of the petrol shop owner?

When we sign up for an ISP, do we enquire about the religious beliefs or otherwise of those who run it? When we do our daily shopping, do we refuse to go to certain supermarkets, based on their religious convictions? For example I was informed that Safeway is owned by the Mormons. If so, will some separatist Christians therefore boycott the chain?

The point is, we are dealing with non-Christians every day of our lives, and often this involves giving them money, using their services, and in various ways effectively endorsing what they are doing. How far do we go, and how zealous should we be for separation?

Now it so happens that in order to pen this piece, I had to interrupt another article I was working on. That piece has to do with something which was supposed to be explicitly Christian, but has been watered down over recent years. In that piece I will argue that if it still wants to consider itself Christian, then it has no place in moving down the path of interfaith dialogue and the like.

But is this the same as working with those of other religions, or even with secular folk, on important social issues? I am not sure that it is. The pro-life cause is so important, in my mind, that I am more than happy to work with non-evangelicals, and even non-Christians.

Indeed, for many years the only major group to be heavily involved in the pro-life cause was the Catholic Church. We evangelicals were for quite a long time asleep at the wheel on this one. I think we certainly can find common cause with all sorts of groups to work together for certain specific and limited ends.

We can do this and still fully maintain our theological distinctives. One need not abandon or water them down in working as co-belligerents on vital issues. As I said above, if we do not work together, we are simply going to lose time and time again on very key areas, such as marriage and family.

Now I have only just begun to touch on these issues here, and heaps more needs to be said. Indeed, I will probably get lots of criticism over all sorts of things I have not said, or could have said. But as I say, it really is a rather large topic, with many considerations to explore. But I offer this as at least some initial remarks on a vexing issue.

As always, Christian charity may demand that we be willing to agree to disagree here. Those who think I have become a heretic and given up the faith, well, what can I say? If you are unhappy with me and this site, perhaps go and set up your own website, where you can freely castigate one and all to your heart’s content! But for those who wish to engage in Christlike dialogue, I am happy to keep discussing these issues.

[1711 words]

37 Responses to On Biblical Cooperation and Separation

  • Hear, hear!
    Alison Keen

  • While on a theological adventure I went into business with two non-christians. In retrospect it was not a healthy thing. Would love to thrash out the issues one day regarding a business partnership on various levels with non-believers.
    Chris Dixon

  • It is not only Christians and the unborn who are threatened. We are all effected. Martin Niemoller, a German pastor and Holocaust survivor who paid a heavy price for faith and freedom, said: “In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up”.

    When Jesus Christ came the first time he did not go around healing people only if they first became followers of him. It is clear from reading the texts that only a few then followed him, whilst the majority just went away. Besides which if we were to sign up only with those whom we regarded as Christians, it is more than likely that we might find some even within this elect group whose theology did not accord with our own, and whom we would not regard as Christian.

    When David was on the run from King Saul, he also collected a whole load of misfits, marginalized and oppressed. That from which we are already under attack is way more devastating than the threat posed by Hitler. Did we during the WWII only fight with Christians?

    I am a Christian aged 65 and so very grieved that a minority in my country could push things so far that the majority of us could be forced into tolerating the views of the militant secularist in our churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, schools, businesses and homes or risk prosecution. I for one will not accept that my church, someone else’s mosque or synagogue will be unable to refuse to marry same-sex couples or hire out halls for gay parties/events or even to accept gay couples into a Christian bed and breakfast. In all these issues including the adoption one – I will gladly go to prison but I will not have these things forced upon me or my family, or any one‘s family…. I want the right to choose what I teach my children and grandchildren – not have it forced upon me that I must teach them about “another kind of love” as they put it in a their propaganda – I will not teach my grandchildren this, nor stand by and agree to someone else doing so, and I sincerely hope that there are many, many like me who feel the same in this country. If this law is passed in this country my freedom, all our freedoms, to choose will have been taken away.

    Caspar Ten Boon (No Hiding Place), identified with the Jews by wearing a yellow star on his sleeve. Though a profound believer in the Lord Jesus he did not first demand to preach the gospel to them.

    David Skinner, UK

  • It is strange that you should be prompted to write on this subject, as I’ll be honest, I am having an internal personal struggle with this issue currently.

    It annoys me frankly, that a ragbag motley crew can come together to oppose religious freedom here in the UK, with so called ‘progressive churches’ teaming up with the godless:-

    http://blog.echurchwebsites.org.uk/2009/11/26/the-cutting-edge-consortium-cec-has-united-to-remove-all-religious-liberty-safeguards-in-the-equality-bill-in-sexual-orientation-employment-laws-which-protect-the-religious-liberty-of-churches-and-o/

    and yet the Christian community doesn’t seem able to come together to fight for them, here in the UK.

    I have seen so much criticism of the Manhattan declaration on blogs, because of theological or ecumenical issues, that it begs the question (in my mind) of, is it because of the lack of cohesion and internal squabbling within Christianity, that we even have to consider co-belligerency?

    Stuart Mackay, UK

  • Thanks Stuart

    There of course is always a place to stand strong in doctrine, and at times one must break fellowship over important theological issues. But you are right, our foes are much more willing to work together, despite all their differences, to destroy Christianity and all that is worthwhile, such as marriage and family, human life, and so on. In the meantime Christians are quite happy to bicker among themselves, oblivious to the many threats which are engulfing them. We are often our own worst enemy.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Stuart, its later in the day than we think; whilst we are counting how many angels can dance on a pin head, the enemy is highly organised, has a time schedule and is ticking off one siezed objective after another. Soon they will be in our living rooms. They are already coming up our garden paths.

    David Skinner, Uk

  • Interesting issue to raise and discuss. I too had to think it through when, after signing the declaration myself, I read a respected American evangelical leader who declined to sign on grounds of cooperation with Catholics and Orthodox.

    What does the Bible say to this? Off the top of my head I can’t think of a Biblical example (either old or new testament) of God’s people cooperating with pagans or heretics to advance an important cause. But it is interesting that the Manhattan declaration makes use of Jesus’ teaching that we must render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, because I think this is a key verse for the question of how much we can cooperate with non-Christians (or doctrinally aberrant Christians).

    Jesus teaches that, where obedience to God is not compromised we can — in fact should — cooperate with secular authorities and institutions in secular matters. Paul and Peter taught the same, eg. in 1 Timothy 2 Paul commands Christians to pray for all those in authority (compare 1 Peter 2:13ff). The Bible is thus generally positive about the general structures and institutions of the world where these operate in a way that promote the good order of society (while of course being realistic about the sinful depravity of all humanity).

    I view the Manhattan declaration as a political statement aimed primarily at a secular audience, and with an intended secular outcome. It is not a credal statement or a confession of the Christian faith. Thus, it is appropriate I think for evangelical Christians to sign it alongside institutions and people who do not necessarily share an authentic Biblical faith, particularly if these identify themselves as “Christian”. To participate in such an alliance is no different from participating in any secular organisation for any cause that glorifies God.

    It would be different, of course, if we were signing a joint confessional statement with Catholics or Orthodox which has a primarily Christian audience and has a primarily doctrinal or spiritual purpose. This would be more dangerous because in this case we are dealing outside Caesar’s domain.

    Having said all that, I would be reluctant to sign something if for instance Muslims or Mormons were involved. Unlike Catholics, with whom we share a basic credal orthodoxy, these other groups are thoroughly heretical and their teachings are absolutely antithetical to the Christian faith.

    Those are my thoughts at present. We should be critical of who we partner with, and not rush into alliances for mere “tactical” reasons, but if a political partnership glorifies God and does not deny Jesus we should be prepared to sign on.

    Jereth Kok

  • Thanks Jereth

    I think the point you make in the middle of your comment is especially to the point here. The MD is not a theological document, and people are not being asked to sign away their life here. It is simply an important manifesto addressing some vitally important concerns, and a collective voice on this may speak louder than just individuals.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Yes, I also view the MD as more of a rallying and unifying ‘wake up’ call than anything else.
    Stuart Mackay, UK

  • But surely Jereth, after making an excellent argument you undermine it by suggesting that Muslims too are not concerned about their families. The three main demands are that our civilisation protects life, marriage and freedom of conscience. To give the opportunity for Muslims and those far right wing organisations whom we might regard as being fascists to sign up, especially with regard to the freedom of conscience and freedom of speech, would be to get them to come into line with us rather than the other way around.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Thanks David

    But now you raise another point which needs to be discussed. There is a difference between who wrote the MD, and who later might sign it. Anyone can sign it, even those we may not agree with. However, if it were partly written, say, by neo-Nazis or those in the KKK, or some such group, then yes I might well have reservations about signing such a document.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • We are not called to judge those outside the church; at least not as people – their behaviour, yes. We are all sinners. The only difference for Christians (and the other thief on the cross), as opposed to the KKK or the BNP, is that we, acknowledging our sinfulness and accepting what Christ has done for us are saved by grace.

    And what does Christ have to say about those who are filled with their own self-righteousness and those whom we think are beyond the pale? “Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you’.” Matthew 11:20-24

    Beside which I think the final declaration merely asks for names (maybe not even that) and not where one comes from. We put aside our labels and merely ask do we agree with the wording or not. This is no different to voting for one bill or another in Parliament Just because the KKK, BNP or Muslim parties might vote in government for something for which we would also vote, should not bar us also from voting for it.

    As Matthew 11 20-24 seems to suggest, religious people should not automatically assume that they have a monopoly on morality.

    As you have pointed out Bill, Wilberforce was appealing to the sense of justice in all men.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Thanks David

    But it is not just behaviours we are to judge. We are to judge ideas, beliefs, worldviews and all sorts of things. Indeed, we are to “test all things”.

    And you may be somewhat confusing issues here. Sure we are all sinners, and we cannot avoid dealing with sinners in a fallen world. But as I said, those who write a document such as this may well need to be taken into account. But yes, there may be all sorts of people signing this that we may not choose to share a dinner party with.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • In Revelation 2 & 3, Jesus gives us His view on a wide range of churches with different strengths and weaknesses.

    Is it worth considering the fact that faithful Christians within any of these churches may have disagreed on certain points with those from other churches? Yet they are all on their lampstands, even if some of them have a somewhat tenuous place.

    Just thinking out loud… I suspect denominations may not exist in heaven!

    Mark Rabich

  • Thanks for the article Bill,

    I agree with your summary regarding liberals vs. fundamentalists – we can probably all agree that there are extremes on both sides to be avoided in this issue,

    The unequally yoked passage was one that had come to mind with regard to this issue. I’d like to make a distinction though – working in partnership with non-Christians or pseudo-Christian organisations (eg; Mormons) is probably a lot closer to the business partnership than buying petrol and groceries from retail giants. Paul’s comments with regard to Christian conscience and the eating of meat offered to idols, seems to operate on the basis that Christians can, will and may eat food sold by pagan operators and that if no one raises the issue of the food being offered to an idol, there is nothing to worry about. It seems that God’s people have always conducted trade with the rest of the world since ancient times, however the conscience principle may apply to us in different ways. For instance if you knew the owner of a business was privately funding the abortion industry or simultaneously dealing in brothels, you may (or may not depending on convictions) choose to use someone elses services wherever possible for that precise reason…

    Now, on the issue of what we should actually fight for and who we should team up with, I do actually respect the fact that many Catholics have taken a strong stance against abortion and as you noted, in this country they have always been at the forefront of the pro-life movement. [Coincidentally, it is of some amusement that I note, that if I recall correctly the first time I ever posted a comment on your website was in reply to an article in which you had mentioned the conflict at the University of QLD between the student union and the Catholic Newman Society over anti-abortion material]. The thing is though, while I am glad they are on the right side of this issue, I just have that reservation about being “yoked” together. The reason I asked one of the questions in response to your Manhattan Dec. article, was because for me there is a difference between voting for an anti-abortion Catholic politician (I believe there are those of this description in all three major parties federally) and actually being involved with Roman Catholic Churches or organisations and I would even extend it to ordained individuals, as they more directly represent the system you and I oppose as Protestants. I know this might sound silly, but I think I could somewhat summarise my feelings on this issue (as opposed to articulating my thoughts at length) by saying that I’d be happy if evangelicals, Catholics, Orthodox groups and members of other religions such as Islam and Judaism were all saying the same thing about abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality and religious freedom without saying it together. And I know that might not be very strategic or co-operative but it does get the message across to the politicians and to society, without raising some of the concerns over major* theological differences.

    It is a discussion worth having Bill and I thank you for putting forward the forum in which to do so and for your thoughts on the issue.

    *I say major to differentiate between what I see as fundamental issues of faith and secondary differences which Bill pointed out have been used by separatist groups to cease having any positive communications with all but a select portion of Christianity.

    Yarran Johnston

  • Thanks again Yarran

    But I still am not sure if I see a major problem in issuing a joint declaration, and speaking with one voice, on an important social issue, if it is clear that no theological compromise was required or involved. Sure, if various groups come together and sign a theological document, dealing specifically with theologically issues, that might be another matter.

    It is not clear to me how working with various religious groups, and even with secular folk, on a vital social issue, makes me ‘unequally yoked’ with them. But as I say, agreeing to disagree is always a good way to safely proceed.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Whilst we argue about the niceties of our faith this unspeakable wickedness is taking place – soon to be taking place near you too.
    http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/nov/09112411.htm
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-mnf4Ti-Yk

    One does not have to be “religious” to sign the declaration. After all God has put his conscience within all of us. And what would Paul have said to us after he said he had become all things to all men? 1 Corinthians 9:19
    http://www.letusreason.org/Biblexp78.htm

    David Skinner, UK

  • Dear David,

    Regarding Muslims: if a few individual Muslims want to sign the MD (though I don’t see why they would), that would not stop me signing it. However, if signing the document meant partnering with Muslims in an institutional sense, I would abstain.

    While the MD is not a Christian theological confession, it is presented from an overtly Christian basis. This should exclude other faiths from being a part of it.

    I don’t have a problem that Islam is family oriented and anti abortion. What I have a problem with is that Islam denies that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, the full revelation of God, and the only Saviour of mankind. If Islam gets its way, there may be no abortions or gay marriage, but we will all be compelled to deny that Jesus is Lord and God. Therefore I refuse to be in partnership with Islam in any sense since that would be to join myself to demons as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 10.

    Catholics on the other hand, though in error on the doctrine of justification, confess Jesus Christ as Lord and God and so I’m willing to stand alongside them in a secular/political cause.

    (Interestingly, if the UK is anything to go by, it would seem that the same trendy sections of society who wish to foist gay marriage upon us are those who also look with favour upon the Islamisation of the West. It’s a strange paradox.)

    regards,
    Jereth Kok

  • Jereth, I think Albert Mohler would answer our anxieties over this:
    http://www.albertmohler.com/2009/11/23/why-i-signed-the-manhattan-declaration/

    But let us remember what we are signing up to; it is not just anti abortion and anti homosexuality it is the third declaration, which for me is the most important: freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. For Muslims and others to sign this will mean that they are prepared to deny their own faiths and align with us.

    Lord Waddington – not a Christian (yet) battled to win a freedom of speech clause (29JA of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill) just a few weeks ago. Surely he should be invited to enjoy a freedom that he has striven so manfully to win our behalf.

    Are we to shun those who have fought for us just because they do not sign up (yet) to the truth that they have enabled us to express?

    David Skinner, UK

  • freedom of conscience and freedom of speech

    Totally agree David.

    I have learnt that we will never legislate morality anymore, those days are finished as God removes his restraining hand.

    Our battle is to defend our freedom to proclaim the full counsel of God no matter who is offended and this obviously requires quid pro quo. We cannot demand freedom of speech and then legislate to stifle others. We cannot legislate for so called ‘offense’ and so called ‘hatred’. We should all be mature and confident in our beliefs and lifestyles to rise above this, period. No one has a ‘right’ not to be criticised anymore.

    Many Christians are (in my opinion) rightly concerned with the changes they view in society, however, they are wrong in their approach to attempt to wield power through legislation, privilege and state appartatus.

    The world has changed and all that is left is to proclaim the full counsel of God, without state interference and fear of prosecution, too all people until the Lord returns.

    I’m sorry if that sounds defeatist. Perhaps I am slipping into Christian libertarianism and if I were, would that be a bad thing do you think?

    I will qualify this by saying, that we must legislate in the protection of the vulnerable.

    Perhaps I am just going through a very public act of confusion.

    Stuart Mackay, UK

  • Thanks Stuart

    Yes things are looking pretty grim at the moment. It seems that all over the Western world governments are getting more secular, more immoral, and more hostile to Christianity. But that is not the end of the story. While we know that governments cannot save anyone, they are ordained of God, and we should pray for them, and seek to work with and in them.

    And we never know: just when it seems that God may have abandoned a nation and its leadership, he may break forth and do a wonderful thing. So we must be realistic, but need not despair. God is in control, and he is not yet finished with the nations. So let us continue to do our part, and he will continue to do his part.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,
    Ecumenicalism, like interfaith get together, is no small issue. It is actually another Christianity in crisis, a danger which is little different from the interfacing of a different gospel with evangelical beliefs. I, therefore can understand the concern of those who have reservation concerning the Manhattan Declaration. As John MacArthur has clarified; here for the sake of ecumenical co-belligerence the gospel has been relegated to a secondary status so as not to mar the accord to fight a common moral cause. It will be less an issue if the declaration was not a “christian” one. We could still have a declaration by people of different gospel or other beliefs and just restrict the declaration to our common moral stand. The meek mention of the ‘gospel’ of the interfaith kind in the declaration is very unsettling for some and they are valid concerns. I respect their views.
    Barry Koh

  • I dont believe the history of our church was grounded and founded on co-belligerents, I see it founded on those martyrs who were prepared to die for the doctrine of their faith, was their death in vain? Christians who refused to go to mass, who read the bible, who refused to bow the knee to the pope, who stood up for justification by faith, not works, slain for the word of God. Burned as heretics, starved in prisons or tortured and persecuted to death because of their faith. Even today we have christians dieing for their faith yet the Laodicea church seeks to co-belly themselves up with apostacy for the sake of marriage and family?

    Isa 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

    Donna Opie

  • I think what Bill and Stuart have just posted touches on something I have been thinking about concerning this issue. The only weapons Christians really have as Christians are spiritual, so prayer is vital as is the proclamation of the gospel and the full counsel of God.

    There may be a benefit in combating moral decay through using lobbies, money and other resources, but it is, as some have stated: “the gospel is the solution to culture.”
    I don’t think Christians should give their time and money to evangelism *exclusively,* but I would say that our time, resources and efforts probably should be going into it *primarily.* I don’t know if anyone is familiar with the quote, but somewhere in “Mere Christianity” C.S. Lewis basically says that the best way to change society for the better or cause people to see issues the right way is to convert your neighbour (to Christ rather than to the cause).

    It is true what Bill said, we have fallible governments with limited usefulness – but they still do have a usefulness. Stuart is also right, legislating morality only addresses one layer of the problem and does not go to the root, even though I, like most people here, would like to see better laws based more thoroughly on Biblical principles. Civil law is good because it can save people from harm and inconvenience, however as with the divinely given law in the Bible, the laws of man cannot actually make men righteous or save them from sin. The gospel therefore addresses this more than political action.

    Signing a declaration in favour of religious liberty may also be an expression of a good desire to let every man have the freedom of conscience that Christians for centuries have seen as the right of believers and non-believers alike. However, I think we all also realise that we will need courage and power from on High to keep speaking the truth after this liberty disappears, which it seems almost certain will happen.

    I respect what you do Bill and am thankful you are speaking up for what is right. I still don’t know about working with other groups if they may affect the clear proclamation of the gospel as the solution to all evil, if it may give those groups some added credibility by our working with them that we might not want them to have and if it opens the door for ungodly people to stab us in the back at an opportune time. That would be why I still frame it as a “yoking” issue. But at the end of the day, I’m not after an argument, I just think this is an issue with a lot of subissues packed into it. I’m not desiring to attack what you do by any means, but I hope addressing these matters will be beneficial to all of us as believers. As you said, iron sharpens iron.
    Regards,
    Yarran Johnston

  • Thanks Bill, as you discerned that is exactly the encouragement I needed. Bless you.
    Stuart Mackay, UK

  • Stuart, excuse me if I have misunderstood you but I don’t agree with your analysis of the present state of government in the west. They were founded on a Christian world view. We have to have laws – any laws – even the law of the robber baron, otherwise society collapses into chaos, which is what you seem to suggesting we have to accept as inevitability.

    In the real world all vacuums are filled with something else. The strong man breaks in and binds us. If we get rid of laws based on a Judeo Christian world view, they are immediately replaced by something infinitely more oppressive, which is precisely what has been underway in Britain for the last twelve years. We are all under authority. The only choice we have is to which authority we bend the knee

    It seems to me that what you are suggesting is the self negating proposition that we accept the absolute law that there are no absolutes. But we do have a right to criticise the behaviour of others. We do have a right to discriminate against paedophiles, sado-masochists and those who would destroy marriage and the family.

    John Adams, second president of the United States said,

    “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”

    In his day that “morality and religion” was Judeo-Christian, which though allowing for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech did not allow the freedom to give them bodily expression, without reference to the Bible. Though it is primarily actions and behaviour we must legislate for – not thoughts or emotions – Christ did say that even thinking of adultery was the same as committing it.

    Those who argue that we should have no censorship in the media would argue that pornography and violence have no impact on behaviour. But perception, thought, emotion, intention and finally action are seamless. At least blocking the action through laws might cause the initial thought to wither and die. Christ said that if your eye or hand caused you sin then cut them off. Nazi ideology was defeated not in endless civilised debate but through destroying the hand that gave it physical expression.

    Christ did not set us free from the word of God, for it is by knowing the truth and living it that we are set free. Free indeed. He came not to do away with the law but to satisfy and perfect it. He set us free so that we could obey the Sermon on the Mount – self governing through a cleansed conscience informed by the Bible and directed by the Holy Spirit.

    Sadly as the church in the west abandons the final authority of the Bible, it is not only indistinguishable from the surrounding idolatrous culture, but actually leading the down hill charge, with capes and gowns flapping – and over the cliff.

    As for a statement attributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” this sounds like all the other kind of arrogant and hypocritical tommy rot he spouted. I doubt very much that he was ever asked to put this bold claim to the test.

    David Skinner, Uk

  • David Skinner. Who is this highly organised enemy coming up our garden paths and what is their “time schedule”?
    John Snowden

  • Thanks guys

    Before this thread starts going off in too many different directions, let me just offer a quick summary reply, as things now might be getting a bit repetitious, as well as tangential!

    As to the MD (which was the catalyst for this piece to begin with), it is merely a document, which people are free to sign or not sign, declaring some quite vital themes, namely the biblical institutions of marriage and family, the sanctity of life, and religious freedom.

    It is not a binding treaty. One does not need to shed blood to make a covenant agreement with it. It does not require one to sell one’s soul. It is not a theological document. It has no penalties for pulling out. One can take it or leave it. It is a mere piece of paper expressing concerns about some very important issues.

    To be honest, I simply fail to see how signing it in any way signals a compromise of the gospel, an unholy alliance, an unequal yoking, a betrayal of the faith, a mark of ungodly compromise, a work of apostasy, or a diminution of the proclamation of the work of Christ.

    But as I keep saying, we may just need to agree to disagree here. So thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • John Snowden, I attended the pre-launch of the 2010 Lesbian Gay, Bisexual and Trans sexual History Month, last Thursday 19th November at the British Museum. I advise everyone to google this little lot. It was truly terrifying for it made it clear as day that Cultural Marxism and the Frankfurt School are not fictional but a present reality. Ben Bradshaw the Secretary of State for Culture in the UK and Sir Trevor Phillips of the Equality and Human Rights Commission are but a few of the drivers of this wicked agenda. They and Stonewall have a programme, schedule, objectives, the financial backing of government, banks, trade unions, studen unions, departments of education human rights organisations that are looking for our children. I was there John, a solitary Christian, witness to this Nuremberg type rally.

    David Skinner, UK

  • As a matter of principle I’ve always had an aversion to glorifying the death of Thomas More or the persecution of Catholics in the Elizabethan era. Celebrating such blood-letting on the part of fellow Christians only serves to further divide those who should be ashamed of the events that have taken place. Similarly Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and the almost fantastical myths that have grown around the publication of the Bible (which conveniently ignore the invention of the printing press) only further reinforce these false divisions. I know only too well (as a descendent of Croat immigrants) how the manipulation of history and a lack of forgiveness can destroy the soul of a people. Surely Christians of this day and age should be able to see through such vainglory and work towards common goals for the salvation of our civilisation in spite of our theological differences. As usual Bill, you have been a beacon of common sense and all you have said I find myself in complete agreement. We would do well to heed your advice.

    Francis Kesina

  • What did Jesus think of those fellow travellers who were not Christians or at least part of our denomination, with regard to accepting their the help and support?

    Luke 9: 46-50 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.” “Master,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”
    “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”

    Luke 10:30-37 Jesus answered, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he travelled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbour to him who fell among the robbers?” He said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

    David Skinner, UK

  • Would we have only joined with fellow Christians to stop the halt of the Nazi war machine? Of course not! God works in and through all sorts, including non-Christian folk who have rightly understood his heart for the unborn etc.
    I would hope that the MD would encourage these not-yet-Christian social and moral conservatives who may be rejecting Christianity because of its perceived failure to address crucially important issues. They are not the only ones who struggle with the ‘party line’ of many of the churches today..
    I believe Aslan is on the move!
    Lisa Nolland, UK

  • Thanks again guys

    As usual, the biblical balance is a tricky thing to achieve in issues like this. And Christians will have different emphases on all this. The Bible certainly warns about unholy alliances, especially in the OT. Israel was not to make defence pacts with pagan nations, but to rely on Yahweh for protection. But again, that seems to me to be a far cry from signing an important document like the MD.

    David is right to cite Luke 9 in this regard, and the Niemoller quote is also relevant here: “In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

    Thus Lisa is sadly quite right. Some Christian purists, if they had their way, would still be languishing in Nazi concentration camps today, so concerned with their version of biblical separatism. The truth is, in a fallen world, we intermingle with non-believers every day on all sorts of levels, and often it cannot be helped that we cooperate with them in various ways. Sometimes it is foolhardy not to do so.

    Working together on common causes has its place. Indeed, Christians were fighting alongside non-Christians, and those from different religions, during WWII. And they were even fighting against other Christians on the other side at times. Things can get complex in the real world.

    But again, we all must decide how biblical separatism and purity works out in daily life. Purity of doctrine and behaviour is certainly important, but so too is resisting evil in the world. But if this thread gets us to think and pray more about these complex issues, then it may have done some good.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thank you David Skinner. I have heard of the Frankfurt School but I will have to read up on it.

    Is membership in student unions mandatory for uni students in your country?

    John Snowden

  • So, let’s say that a group of evalgelicals decide to hold a protest rally (on any of these issues previously mentioned) outside parliament. By sheer coincident an RC group has planned a similar rally at the same place for the same issue. Then, by remarkable coincidence a Muslim group, and then a secular group roll up, each equally surprised by the others’ presence. What would you do?
    a. Pack up and go home.
    b. Remain, but with clearly established demarcation lines.
    c. Start a fight and try to tell the others that this is your rally and that they should go away.
    d. Remain there and protest, thankful that there are many other community members who want want what you (and God) want.

    To paraphrase Joshua, “As for me and my household, we will choose to stay, thankful for the extra supporters sent by God”.

    I am a staunch evangelical Christian.

    Kev Downes

  • God bless you Kev.

    Let us be reminded of the case of Mr Edwards Atkinson:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/article716301.ece
    http://www.lynnnews.co.uk/news/39SICK39-PROTEST-OVER-ABORTION.5045196.jp
    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NjNmZmYwMmE1MWYzYTA5NjIzMGM4ZTZmMmMxMGM3NzA=#more

    A number of us were in court the day he was led off on his walking sticks to prison. We were Baptists, Anglicans and Roman Catholics. Since then I have joined with Catholics on another issue of gross injustice. But protesting with words and civil disobedience is one thing but what happens when the secular authorities actually come and tear our children away from us, as is about to happen with Isabella being torn from her mother Iisa Miller and given into the keeping of a lesbian and her partner:
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=81022155363
    http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/oct/08102707.html
    http://hunterforjustice.typepad.com/hunter_of_justice/2009/11/vermont-judge-orders-transfer-of-custody-to-nonbio-mom-of-isabella-millerjenkins.html

    Does there not also come a point where action is also demanded? The Marxist tyrannies of Eastern Europe were in the final analysis brought down by the solidarity of all peoples – led by Christians, for only they have the moral courage and spiritual power to do this.

    David Skinner, UK

  • If we don’t work with and mix with the people around us we don’t have much chance of impressing them with the Gospel. After all, Jesus accepted invitatons to mix with publicans and sinners, but He did not water the message in order to suit them. I rather gain the impression that He impressed them with who He was. We have nohing to be afraid of.
    Tom Wise

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