White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

Being under the Word with Carson, Keller, and Piper

The fine folks over at The Gospel Coalition have released another video discussing various aspects of ministry and the church. In this video D.A. Carson, John Piper, and Tim Keller discuss the Christian’s relationship to God’s Word, especially pastors.

Biblical Authority in an Age of Uncertainty from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Christianity and Politics, Progressive Style

Guest-Post by Brian Lee, pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Washington, DC (which worships in Teddy Roosevelts church).

It is amazing how quickly we forget that the confusion of Christianity with politics has happened on both sides of the political spectrum.

Theodore Roosevelt broke from the Republican Party in 1912 to form a third, Progressive Party for his presidential run — the so-called “Bull Moose Party,” so named because Roosevelt said he felt like a “bull moose” after bolting the Republicans. Sporting red bandanas (symbolizing the rise of the proletariat) and viewed as radicals by establishment Democrats and Republicans, the Progressives gathered for their nominating convention in Chicago in August 1912.

The convention was a historic event in American politics, marking the first time a candidate appeared at his own nominating convention. But perhaps most remarkable was its religious fervor, well detailed in Edmund Morris’s Colonel Roosevelt. The New York Times reporter wrote, “It was not a convention at all; it was an assemblage of religious enthusiasts.”

As Roosevelt mounted the stage preparing to speak, he led the assembly in the singing of “Onward, Christian Soldiers” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Roosevelt’s address was entitled, “A Confession of Faith,” and it closed with a motto he had already invoked at the Republican convention weeks earlier, “We stand at Armaggedon, and we battle for the Lord.” As Morris notes, “If Progressivism was, as more and more critics were suggesting, a religion, it needed its mantras.” A tumult ensued — “enthusiasm turned to ecstasy” — and ten thousand voices sang Roosevelt’s name to the tune of “Maryland, my Maryland.”

The convention closed with the singing of the Doxology.

Basic Apologetics: How can Jesus be the only way?

William Cwirla (LCMS): At issue is the “scandal of particularity,” that Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life, and that “no one comes to the Father except by him” (John 14:6). Statements like these would be hubris at best, insanity at worst, except for the fact that Jesus died on a cross and bodily rose from the dead.

This is why the Apostle Paul makes the bodily resurrection of Jesus as an historic fact the lynchpin of his apologetic. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). If Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead, we could not be sure of any of his claims or the claims of his apostles. They could easily be the work of madmen or ambitious religious zealots. The bodily resurrection of Jesus, an historic fact established by the testimony of eyewitnesses who saw him, touched him, heard him, ate with him, validates Jesus’ claim to be the way, the truth, and the life.

The Buddha didn’t rise from the dead; Mohammed didn’t rise from the dead. No one else but Jesus died and rose. This means we have to take all of his claims seriously, or we will be living in denial of a plain fact of history.

What often lies behind this question is failure to apprehend the paradox that salvation in Christ is both inclusive and exclusive at the same time, and so people charge God with being “unfair.” Jesus is the inclusive Savior of the world, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, who drew all into his death when he was lifted up on the cross. “He is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). At the same time, Jesus is exclusively the Savior of the world; the world has no other Savior because the world has no other death that atones for sin.

Michael Brown (URC): The Bible is very clear about the exclusivity of Christianity. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The apostles subsequently preached this same message: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). But this is precisely what many people in our culture find so scandalous and offensive about Christianity. An objector will often ask, “But isn’t God pleased with the person who lives a good, moral life and sincerely tries to do what is right even if he doesn’t come to God through Jesus Christ? What happens to that person when he dies?”

The answer, according to Scripture, is very simple: the person who truly lives a good and moral life does not need to come to God through Christ at all. A good person is in no danger of God’s judgment and needs no Savior. He has nothing to worry about; when he dies he will go directly to heaven on his own merit.

But the question is not what happens to good people when they die; rather, the question is: What happens to guilty people when they die? The problem is that the standard of goodness and morality is not our own, but God’s, and he demands perfection! Says Paul in Romans 2:13: “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law.” This is something that only Christ has achieved. No one except Jesus has lived a good and moral life that is acceptable to God. This is Paul’s whole argument in Romans 1:18-3:20, namely, that everyone has sinned against God and the whole world is under his wrath. Thus, there are no good people. Our own righteous deeds are not good enough for a holy God who must, by his very nature, demand a righteousness as good as his own. This is what makes Christ the only way to salvation: he is the only true doer of the law. He is the only one who has kept the law perfectly, satisfying all its demands for those who believe (see Rom. 8:1-4).

Still, one might object: But if Jesus is the only way, what about the natives in the deep jungles of South America who have never heard of Jesus? How can God judge people for rejecting Jesus if they have never heard of Jesus?

Again, the biblical answer is rather simple. God will not and cannot punish someone for rejecting Christ who has never heard of Christ. That would be unjust and there is no injustice in God. A person is not condemned for rejecting Jesus of whom they have never heard. Rather, they are condemned for rejecting the Father who has made himself clear to the whole world (see Rom. 1:19-20).

WHI-1057 | The Great Commission & The Great Commandment

Sometimes we confuse the Great Commission (making disciples through the gospel) with the Great Commandment (serving our neighbors through loving works), as if the official mission of the church is the same as the individual Christian’s many obligations in the world. If Christians are called to citizenship, social justice, and good works in the world, does this mean that the calling of the church as an institution is to transform the kingdoms of this age? This special edition of the White Horse Inn was recorded live at The Gospel Coalition in Chicago, and features special guest Julius Kim, associate professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary California.

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Cate-what? Horton on Recovering Catechesis

Mike Horton was recently a guest on Issues, Etc. to discuss his recent Modern Reformation article “Trees or Tumbleweeds” which stresses the need for churches to recover the neglected practice of catechesis.

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Basic Apologetics: “I think all paths lead to God”

William Cwirla (LCMS): When people say things like that, I always like to ask, “On what basis do you think that? What evidence can you put forward that this statement is true?”

It is true that all religious paths, save one, lead to the same place, but that place isn’t God. All religions, save one, hold that you must work your way to God, whether by your creeds, your conduct, or your worship. This is essentially the religion of the Law, something that all religions, save one, have in common.

The statement presupposes that we are on a search for God, much like a hiking trip through the mountains, and whether we take the high road or the low, we will all ultimately wind up in the same place. Buddhism essentially works this way, and even a surprising number of Christians have been caught up into believing this notion that all paths lead to God as long as you sincerely follow your chosen path.

The path is not ours to define but God’s. Jesus pointed out that the way to destruction is broad, and no one has trouble finding that road, while the way to life is exceedingly narrow, and those who find it are few (Matt. 7:13-14). Christianity is the only religion that is really a non-religion, in the sense that we don’t work to God but God comes all the way to us. “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-6). God in Christ does it all.

The narrow door Jesus was speaking of is the narrow door of his own death. We would not seek this door on our own, much less find it. Who in their right minds would construct a religion out of an all-sufficient, all-atoning sacrificial death of the Son of God in which the sinner is justified before God? To the wisdom of the world, this is utter nonsense, not to mention bad for morality in general. That’s why from start to finish, God must do the work of salvation for us. We would not have it this way on our own.

As with everything else in Christianity, it all hangs on the death and resurrection of Jesus. While it is theoretically possible that there are other ways for a sinner to stand justified before God, God has not revealed any. Instead, he sent his only begotten Son who claimed to be the only way to the Father (John 14:6). On its own, that might be an outrageous example of hubris on the part of Jesus. But then, he’s the only One who died and rose bodily from the dead. We’re going to have to take his word on that one.

Jason Stellman (PCA): Well, in a certain sense it is true that all paths lead to God. The Bible teaches that all people, great and small, rich and poor, will stand before their Maker. The problem isn’t getting to God, it’s being accepted by him.

Many today feel that God will happily receive all who stand before him with a smile and a warm hug (R. C. Sproul jokingly calls this view “Justification by Death”). But if we take a few moments to consider who this God is, it becomes necessary to reevaluate our position and question our confidence.

Let’s use the realm of civic justice as an illustration. Suppose there were a judge in a certain town who was known for being an accepting, gregarious fellow in private, and his magnanimous personality spilled over into his work. So when thieves, murderers, and kidnappers stand before him, he just can’t help but love them and let them off with a small slap on the wrist. If this were to happen over and over, the town would rise up and demand justice, wouldn’t they? And rightly so. We all have an inherent sense of right and wrong (which really flares up when we’re the ones wronged!) which tells us that criminals should be punished.

But whatever sense of justice and fairness we share as humans beings is there because we have been made in God’s image. If we think evil should be punished, how much more true is this when we consider God and his standards, his holiness, and his judgment? God is infinitely more pure, just, and offended at sin than we, and therefore his very nature demands that sinners be punished for their actions.

The good news, of course, is that God is also infinitely more gracious and merciful than we, and for this reason he has sent his Son into the world to walk in our shoes, live the life we have failed to live, and die the death that our sins demand. So though it is true that “all paths lead to God,” it is also true that only one of those paths leads to forgiveness and blessing. All others lead to eternal destruction.

From Modern Reformation (March/April 2006): Does God Believe in Atheists?

Chandler, Horton, and Keller on How to Disagree

Our friends at the Gospel Coalition are releasing videos they shot at their recent conference. Mike Horton was a guest for a few of these discussions. In this video, Mike talks with Matt Chandler (pastor of the Village Church) and Tim Keller (pastor of Redeemer PCA) about godly disagreement. Whether you are a scholar whose work has been savaged by an unscrupulous critic or just a normal Joe who is at loggerheads with a brother or sister in Christ, you’ll benefit from the wisdom here.

Chandler, Horton, Keller on How to Disagree from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

How Jesus fulfills the Ten Commandments

From Pastor Wade Butler’s The Procession of God, a resource from our friends at New Reformation Press.

The Jews call the 10 Commandments the 10 Words. The 10 Words reflect the future tense. You shall not. You SHALL not. If we put the right emphasis on the words, we see the 10 Words which God wrote on stone to Moses were also predictions of how Jesus would act.

That is why Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law. One fulfills a prediction, one keeps a Law. And although Jesus kept the Laws, He also fulfilled them. When God wrote the 10 Words, the people were at the base of Mount Sinai worshiping a golden calf. Despite that, God wrote a description of Jesus, the child of Abraham. He said of Jesus:

  • You shall have no other Gods – and Jesus didn’t. He insisted that He and the Father were one.
  • And you shall not make any graven images – Jesus didn’t need to. He was the image of the invisible Creator.
  • You shall remember the Sabbath Day – Jesus was dead over the Sabbath and didn’t move a muscle. His heart didn’t beat. He did no work. He didn’t decay for the Father would not allow Him to see corruption.
  • You shall honor your Father and Mother – He honored them both by dying for the Father and taking care of His mother, even while on the cross.
  • You shall not murder – Instead, He gave His life a ransom for many to stop the murderer Satan.
  • You shall not commit adultery – Instead He created a Bride from the blood and water from His side.
  • You shall not steal – He had no place to lay His head and constantly gave all He had to those lost and wandering.
  • You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor – No, He told the truth, but His neighbors all managed to bear false witness against Him.
  • You shall not covet your neighbor’s house – He owned the whole creation, yet did not covet it. He loved it and was willing to die to set it free. He did not want it as His own; he wanted it free to want Him and Him alone.
  • You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife – He didn’t need a neighbor’s wife. He created a new wife for Himself from the blood and water from his side. The whole creation was to be the Bride of Christ with which He would and did become one flesh through the miracle of becoming flesh and the marvel of Theosis…

Basic Apologetics: How can God exist when there is so much evil and pain in the world?

William Cwirla (LCMS): The problem of suffering (theodicy) is really a matter of the clay critiquing the work of the potter. The question lays a moral problem at God’s feet and then questions the existence of God. “Evil” implies “good” and our ability to discern the difference. Without an external objective standard of good and evil, we would have no ability to speak of evil in the world. Therefore, to call the existence of God into question on account of the presence of evil in the world presupposes a higher standard of the good against which to judge what is and isn’t evil.

The question presupposes that God should run the universe according to our set of rules. If we were God, we wouldn’t permit the presence of evil in the world. This is an anthropocentric view of the universe, as though everything that causes us suffering is necessarily evil.

The question fails to take into account the presence of sin and its cosmic effects. The fall of Adam not only plunged humanity into sin, it also disrupted the inherent harmony of the created order (Rom. 8:18-25). Pain and suffering exists because the inherent harmony of creation has been messed up by sin. Even when human beings don’t have a direct hand in the cause of suffering, say an earthquake or a hurricane, it is nevertheless due to the disruption of creation’s order by sin.

So what is God to do? One thing he doesn’t do, at least on a regular basis, is intervene. He doesn’t block bullets from finding their targets; he doesn’t turn hurricanes away from cities; he doesn’t necessarily keep a meteor from plummeting through the roof of your house. Instead, he restores order to the cosmos by reconciling all things to himself in the death of his Son Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-19) and bringing all things together under a new Head of creation (Eph. 1:10). In Christ, the God who suffers, “evil” and pain are ultimately employed for good, trumped by the all-reconciling death of Jesus.

We run into trouble with the question of evil and suffering when we attempt to address it apart from the cross of Jesus Christ. Then the discussion becomes a philosophical abstraction, pitting God’s mercy and love against his omniscience and power. The cross of Jesus silences these speculations. Here the Innocent One suffers on behalf of guilty humanity; here God himself bears the ultimate injustice and evil in his own crucifixion which he makes the reconciliation of all things. Jesus Christ, the second Adam and the new Head of creation, sets the disordered universe back into order by his own dying and rising, gathering all things into his death (John 12:32).

In Christ, there is no problem of evil and suffering, for “in all things God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The existence of God is not negated by the presence of evil. Rather, the presence of evil demonstrates the cosmic reality of sin, ultimately reconciled once and for all in the death of Jesus Christ.

Michael Brown (URC): First, we must understand that God did not create the world evil. The Bible reveals to us that God made all things good. He created humans in true righteousness and holiness. He crowned them with glory and honor and gave them dominion over the works of his hands. Violence, sorrow, and death were not part of man’s original experience; he only knew the blessing of life in God’s good earth. It was not until Adam sinned against God and broke the covenant into which he was placed that the horror of evil, pain, and death came to be a regular part of existence in this world. As a result of the fall, God could have judged the world immediately and plunged all of mankind into the eternal punishment we rightly deserve. It is only because of his great grace that he chose to redeem a people out of this fallen and dark world. That is why this age of suffering continues: God is gathering in his elect until the Last Day. We have the confidence that God is in fact doing this because he sent Christ his Son “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age” (Gal. 1:4a).

Second, we must understand that while this present evil age continues, God oversees all things by his providence, that is, his constant interaction and intervention with the world he has made. He not only preserves his creatures, but is directing everything to its appointed end, “work[ing] all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11b). He even uses the evil acts of men for his own purpose and glory. Yet, he does so while remaining free from and the just judge of evil. It is this understanding of providence that led Joseph to declare to his brothers who sinned against him: “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20a). What this shows us is that God is both good and sovereign. We are comforted to know that he is always in control and that, as the Heidelberg Catechism puts it, “whatever evil he sends upon me in this vale of tears he will turn to my good; for he is able to do, being Almighty God, and willing also, being a faithful Father” (Q. 26).

Finally, we must understand that the story is not over. Just as this world was once free from evil and pain in the beginning, so shall it be again when the King returns. Paradise lost will be paradise restored, only infinitely greater. This universe will be resurrected to fit the glory of the age to come-an age in which God has promised to dwell with his people and forever keep them from pain, suffering, and evil. As we read in the final chapters of the Bible: “He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3b-4).

Jason Stellman (PCA): One philosopher claimed that there are many arguments against God’s existence, but this is the only good one! There are a couple ways to approach this question. But before I start apologizing on God’s behalf and defending his actions, we must remember who it is we’re talking about here: the all wise, all powerful, good, and loving God.

We need to be reminded of this because our sinful temptation is to think that God has gotten himself stuck in a corner and we need to reason him out of it. But this is the height of arrogance. “Let God be true,” Paul insisted, “and every man a liar.” God doesn’t need us to get him off the hook! This is crucial to remember: There’s no hook on which God can get stuck from which we must rescue him. If there is a hook, it is we who are stuck on it, not God.

C. S. Lewis used to object to God’s existence for this same reason (all the evil in the world). But then he realized something that many today have never wrestled with: How do I know things are evil or bad? His conclusion was that, in order to be able to recognize evil, he must have some standard of “good” against which he measures everything else. To use his illustration, one cannot recognize a crooked line unless he first has some concept of a straight one. But if there is no God, the very objection to evil loses its force, for if the universe is nothing but the result of random chance, then evil could never be recognized as such.

So that leaves us with the uncomfortable conclusion that there is a God, and this God allows (and in some way ordains) that evil things occur. What do we do with this? I think it is at this point that eschatology becomes very practical. The story into which we have been written is not just a tale about a Shepherd whose sheep got lost and remained that way. Rather, the Christian story is about a God who went to such great lengths to redeem his fallen ones that he sent his own Son to live, die, and rise again for them. Though we are still living in a period of delay, the promise remains that this same Lord Jesus will descend from heaven and put all things right. To Adam it seemed as if Paradise was lost. To us, Paradise feels postponed (though we presently experience it in part). But from God’s perspective and according to his testimony, Paradise has been regained, and the day will come when a new heaven and new earth will descend, and the former things-such as evil and pain-will be remembered no more.

So my point is this: the problem of evil cannot be abstracted from the rest of the story God is telling and considered on its own. All good drama needs a point of crisis, for without this the ending doesn’t appear nearly as glorious.

Christianity in America: A Roundtable Discussion

With J. I. Packer, James M. Boice, Richard Halverson, William Pannell and Michael S. Horton

HORTON: Do you think the complaint that evangelicals in this day and age are shallow and superficial is justified?

BOICE: Yes, I would agree with that complaint. For various reasons I think we are contributing to the very thing we ought to be working against. One reason is that we are so preoccupied with numbers. We’re so interested in getting people to make a profession that we often forget to take the time to explain the content of what it is they are about to profess. I notice, by contrast, that our Lord himself never did that. If anything, he seemed to be afraid of numbers. When the numbers got too high, he asked the tough questions, questions that would weed out those who were following only because it was simply the most exciting thing of the hour to do.

PACKER: I think this is right. There is such a thing as cultural Christianity, a Christianity that only goes skin deep and is taken in because it is part of the culture of your home or the group to which you belong. What you receive in this case, you receive by osmosis, rather than by any sort of thinking. When the time comes and the tough questions are asked your mind begins to wake up and you realize that all you’ve got is the veneer of a “Christian lifestyle” without any deeply rooted convictions at all. Culture Christianity is always a problem at this point. Those who have received it think that they are Christians because of the way that they have been conditioned, when in many cases they still have been converted.

PANNELL: What we have failed to do in many of our Christian circles is to present in a stimulating way real biblical questions. Today, people tend to think that you can go to church, be a Christian, and get along best if you leave your mind in the glove compartment.

HORTON: Could it be that we have a cheap and limited view of God and his grace?

HALVERSON: I certainly think we’ve lost that sense of awe when we talk about God in our modern evangelical culture. I don’t sense awe in many of the evangelical gatherings that I have attended. I have a feeling, for example, that if Jesus was to walk into one of our churches or conventions, that we wouldn’t want to stand up and cheer and sing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” I think we should fall immediately to our knees in an attitude of worship. However, today I think we tend to equate noise with praise and worship and that troubles me a great deal (see Amos 5:21-24).

PACKER: I think you’ve hit on something fairly basic here. I think of the two pans of an old fashioned pair of scales. If one goes up, the other goes down. Once upon a time folks new that God was great and that man by comparison was small. Each individual carried around a sense of his own smallness in the greatness of God’s world. However, the scale pans are in a different relation today. Man has risen in his own estimation. He thinks of himself as great, grand and marvelously resourceful. This means inevitably that our thoughts about God have shrunk. As God goes down in our estimation, He gets smaller. He also exists now only for our pleasure, our convenience and our health, rather than we existing for His glory.

Now, I’m an old fashioned Christian and I believe that we exist for the glory of God. So the first thing I always want to do in any teaching of Christianity is to attempt to try and get those scale pans reversed. I want to try and show folks that God is the one of central importance. We exist for His praise, to worship Him, and find our joy and fulfillment in Him; therefore He must have all the glory. God is great and He must be acknowledged as great. I think there is a tremendous difference between the view that God saves us and the idea that we save ourselves with God’s help. Formula number two fits the modern idea, while formula number one, as I read my Bible, is scriptural. We do not see salvation straight until we recognize that from first to last it is God’s work. He didn’t need to save us. He owed us nothing but damnation after we sinned. What he does, though, is to move in mercy. He sends us a Savior and His Holy Spirit into our hearts to bring us to faith in that Savior. Then He keeps us in that faith and brings us to His glory. It is His work from beginning to end. God saves sinners. It does, of course, put us down very low. It is that aspect of the gospel that presents the biggest challenge to the modern viewpoint. But we must not forget that it also sets God up very high. It reveals to us a God who is very great, very gracious and very glorious. A God who is certainly worthy of our worship.

PANNELL: I’m always impressed with the conversation that Jesus had with some of his contemporaries when they asked, “What can we do that we might do the works of God?” The assumption being that whatever God laid on them, they could handle. Jesus responded by saying, “This is the work of God, that you believe on Him who He has sent.” They could no more swallow that than they could any of the other teachings of Jesus. This one stuck in their minds and I think the reason for that is because it lays upon God all the burden of being Savior. And that is just un-American. To think that we would need someone outside ourselves to save us is in violation of the spirit of American independence.

HORTON: Could that be why we don’t frequently hear the preaching of the cross in evangelical churches? If we do hear the cross, it’s only in terms of how much God loves us, but we never really hear why the cross was actually necessary.

PACKER: Well, before we ever start talking about the cross showing us the love of God, we ought to take the time to define what took place on the cross so as to explain why the death of Christ shows us God’s love. Surely the first thing to say is that the achievement of the cross was the putting away of our sins. Had that not happened through the wisdom of God who put His Son in our place, we would have had to pay the price for our sins and that would have been eternal spiritual loss. Thus, the meaning of the cross is that a God, who was my stern judge, has become my loving heavenly Father because He has put away my sins. The Father, through the Son, redeemed the world. So our relationship with God becomes the most important issue we can ever face and the cross of Christ becomes the most momentous event in history, because we have a loving heavenly Father and the Judge who fully satisfies the account of us for our guilt. This is the God-centered way of looking at the cross.

BOICE: But that is the question, how are we going to look at the cross, or mankind, or God. For example, if your basic premise is that God exists to serve mankind and you happen to be going through a period of suffering, is God going to have to solve your problems for him to mean anything to you? The health and wealth gospels that we’ve heard so much about are merely outgrowths of this man-centered religion. However, if you take it the other way around, we’re there for God’s benefit and then He has a purpose even in our suffering. Christianity does not involve our solving everybody’s human problem, but instead involves our showing we can go through human problems in a way that honors God. Until Christians in our country understand that, Christianity is not going to have the impact that it once had, either for revival or for cultural change.

HALVERSON: I feel that this is where we are today. Although we say we believe in God, we really believe in man. I’ve lived in Washington D.C. for thirty years and I hear this all the time. They never verbalize it quite this way, but what they’re saying is, “If we just get the right man in the White House, and the right people in the Supreme Court and Congress, we’ve got the kingdom of God.” This concerns me a great deal.

PANNELL: I think there is a consensus in the world today as never before that the human race needs to be saved. I think that’s what communism and other isms are about. This leads inevitably to a contemporary idolatry called nationalism. To the degree that the church is seduced to these ideologies, it is to that degree also that the church loses confidence in the power of the gospel. And the cross just becomes something you wear around your neck.

HALVERSON: Years ago we had a breakfast in Washington for Malcolm Muggeridge, who as some of you may know is very pessimistic. After giving his speech, one gentleman, who happened to be constitutionally incapable of hearing anything pessimistic, approached him and said, “Brother Muggeridge, you’ve been very pessimistic, can’t you say anything optimistic?” He responded, “Why my friend, I’m very optimistic because my hope is only in Jesus Christ.” He let that response settle for a moment. Then he said this, “Just suppose the apostolic church had pinned its hopes on the Roman empire?” I’ve never been able to forget that. In a day when we are pinning our hope on the good old U.S.A. There’s a little text that came to mean a great deal to me a few years ago when I was preparing to preach an ordination sermon. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” I can’t believe he has ever failed, or ever will fail in doing that. So I have to believe he is building his church. The problem is the church we’re building.

From Modern Reformation (May/June 1993): “Beyond Culture Wars”

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