Jesus explicitly says that His Kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36) yet some of us still persist, like the crowds, to make him an Earthly king by force (John 6:15). This is not what Jesus wants from us. What he wants is for us to “make disciples” of the nations. Unlike the devil, He wants to rule over a kingdom of voluntary subjects, not of people who are enslaved to Him and hate Him. What is this “making disciples” all about though? Some explain “make disciples of all nations” to mean “take over the nations” whereas others explain it to mean “take some people from all of the nations.” Does history offer us any help in resolving which interpretation is better?
Well certainly we can observe that any time that the church and state are intertwined, it leads to serious corruption of the church. Christianity gets physical defense from other powers in exchange for being corrupt. History does not lead in the trajectory of the Church “taking over” nations.
On the other hand, to take the other view that the Christian take-over of Rome was a tragic mistake will not do either. We’ve made a lot about Wilberforce, but what about all of great things that Christianity did to culture before then? We abolished ancient slavery, gladiatorial matches, raised the status of women significantly, including female infants, took power away from the autocrats and created room in the society for the common man, to mention a few of the “human rights” related changes that never happened in Rome or anywhere else in history without Christ. Everything we became as a civilization stemmed out of Christianity being the dominant cultural force, instead of paganism. Now we are using the technology and money that resulted from having these Christian principles to reach to the literal ends of the earth for Christ. Moreover, neither Islam nor barbarians were able to kill us because we were protected by the medieval states. To argue that the church should not have influence on the state is to argue for a state of perpetual persecution and martyrdom. God saw fit to end that by making Caesar acknowledge Christ. I disagree with those who say “the church needs a little persecution.” If they are so sincere in that belief, I have a short list of places they can move to volunteer.
Part of our inheritance from our Spiritual forebears is not just salvation, it is the environment in which we could find salvation and even more importantly — give it to others. We need to pass something down to our children other than just salvation — we need to pass down to them the cultural inheritance of our past. We need to pass down to them the Christian principles that make us free as a people, or not only they but all of the weak of the secular world will be slaves again. Our governments have been working against us to remove the Christianity from our civilization, and when they are done, nothing will be left but the pagan roots of Rome that were there before. Can you say “welcome back” gladiators?
A large part of the church is focused simply on saving souls, and part of the church is focused on reforming the government. Both are needed, but these groups have completely different theologies. Is there any view which would consistently motivate us to do both? I haven’t solved the puzzle but I’m becoming more convinced of several things.
First, culture is the main thing that welcomes or rejects God among a people, this includes both revival, as well as freedom. Winning souls is critical, influencing law is good, but impacting culture is the stage upon which these things happen. If we abandon culture, we curse the ability to reach future generations and their ability to affect the law.
Second, part of who we are as Christians is our Christian cultural values. Multiculturalists are working hard to undermine this by labeling it Western imperialism. In reality it has taken 2000 years to get certain values to be deeply a part of who we are. We can’t throw that under the bus. The logical extension of this is that we must teach every disciple of Christ the fundamental elements of Christian culture. Most people refer to this as “Biblical worldview” but this often ends up as a side topic. We need to understand this as central to the discipleship process. Of course Biblical worldview is deeply enmeshed in personal character, but what we need to pass down is something about our corporate relationships and relationship to the world.
Third, I have come to the belief that what you belief about the Earth is what you is what you leave on the Earth. I mean that in the very specific sense that the cultural inheritance you pass down is what you pass down to change the Kingdoms of this world. If you only pass down your faith or people you have evangelized, but pass nothing to them about culture you pass them down an inheritance of slavery. You have been given an inheritance by all of the Christians before you, you must maintain that trust and pass it down to your children. If you do not believe in the principles of freedom and pass them down, you are setting the stage for their slavery and bondage.
Fourth, the church is locked in a mortal struggle with the state. When the state gains enough power over the church, Satan will use it to try and wipe the church out. The more space in society that the state takes up, the less “room” there is for the church. “Big government” is not a modern invention. It is an historical reality. Christ comes to set people free from the chains of serving man, often personified as an absolute ruler. Our ideal is not a state we control or one that we ignore. Our ideal is a state that we influence. If Jesus says “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s” that means that something belongs to God which does not belong to Caesar and that Caesar himself must render unto God his due. We as the church are the voice and influence to make that happen. This doesn’t mean that we can’t actually run the government. We can, but when we do, we must do so in the spirit of Daniel — as a blessing to all people, like God who “causes it to rain on the unrighteous,” not as implementers of a religious policy. When we put in place policies which give people freedom, and serve justice to the weak, we fundamentally set back the devil’s Kingdom. The church can help the poor, but only the state can give them “justice.” Some have perverted this to mean give them handouts. Justice means the right to be treated the same as someone who has money, not the right to have their money.