By Joseph Mattera
View #1: The church should not be involved in politics but only concentrate on soul-winning; the rest will take care of itself. This has been promulgated in the Evangelical Church the past 125 years, especially in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles since its inception in the early 1900’s.
View #2: The church should demonstrate its spirituality primarily by getting involved through social and political action. With this view, the inner spiritual life and the supernatural are deemphasized. Many mainline liberal denominations represented by the World Council of Churches have taken this position.
View #3: The classical reformed view (my view) is that God has allotted various jurisdictions of society, with the church and Bible at the center of culture and creation as “salt and light.” Some collapse these jurisdictions (or governments) to five: self-government, family, business, civic (political), and ecclesiastical (church).
Although there are other views which can be mentioned, these three are the primary views with the others being either extremes or variations of these three.
For example, an extreme variation of the third view is a form of triumphalism in which Christianity will take over every government, eradicate all evil, and convert most if not all of the world’s population before the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course this doesn’t properly take into account the consequences of the Fall (Romans 5:12; 6:23), in which the sinfulness of humankind is so deep that we will never have an absolute utopia this side of heaven before the second bodily return of Christ.
Whether Christian or non-Christian, any group that has an unbalanced concentration of power (e.g. the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, or certain points of corruption in Western European history that compromised the Roman Catholic church, such as the Inquisition) will eventually be decentralized by God so that proper checks and balances can prosper both the civil liberties of people and the aforementioned jurisdictions.
As far as I am concerned, the key verse in the entire Bible that explains the mission of the Church is Genesis 1:28:
Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth
Many theologians have called this passage the Cultural Mandate because this original covenant with Adam, the federal head of the human race, gives the human race the responsibility of stewarding the earth, which involves managing every aspect of life and society. After the Fall, God recapitulated this same command by giving it to Noah in Genesis 9:1-2:
So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand.”
This proves that the Cultural Mandate was still in effect after the Fall. Furthermore, Matthew 28:18-20 has been called by some theologians the Second Commission instead of the Great Commission because Jesus as the Second or Last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45) gave the godly seed (the church) another form of the Cultural Mandate when He told the church to disciple the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).
Discipling whole nations must include applying the commandments of God to all of practical life: politics, business, art, science, history, education, sociology, etc. Thus it is a recapitulation of what God told the first Adam in Genesis 1:28.
When someone wonders whether or not the church should be involved in politics, they are missing the bigger picture of the Cultural Mandate, in which the church is called to be the center of all of culture by influencing every discipline and jurisdiction with the biblical worldview.
Second Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive to the knowledge of God.1 This is not just an individual but a corporate command for the created order.2
Although I believe in the separation of church and state, I do not believe in the separation of God and state because we are called to bear fruit, multiply, replenish the earth (consecrate the earth to God), subdue the earth (disarm the enemies of God), and have dominion (work for the reformation of every system and institution on earth so that it reflects the biblical ethos).
Many Christians have an unscriptural belief that the spiritual world is important and the natural world unimportant! Jesus told us to pray that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven (Luke 11 and Matthew 6). This shows that God wants us to focus on the earth in our life and prayers even though the present “last days” emphasis on “escape, retreat and get caught up to heaven” indicates the church currently emphasizes the opposite of this!
My book, Ruling in the Gates, shows that the Cultural Mandate in Genesis 1:28 was never annulled but is the common theme throughout both the Old and New Testaments in regards to God’s mission for His covenant people.3
The following terms have vast political implications, without which you could never understand the nature and mission of Jesus, the crucifixion, or the church:
1. The Kingdom of God
a. Every kingdom has a king, a land, a political government, laws and commands, a society, and an economy.
b. In Mark 1:15 Jesus told us the kingdom of God is here (see also Matthew 4:17).
c. Paul went about “preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things that concern the Lord (political title) Jesus” (Acts 28:31).
d. The kingdom of God is the whole created order, not just the church (Psalm 24: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”)
e. The church is in the kingdom but is not the totality of the kingdom.
2. “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords”
a. Jesus is called this title in various portions of Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 1:5, 19:16.
b. This is the most politically charged title a person can possibly have!
c. Notice, it does not say Jesus is merely the king of heaven or the king of the church, or that He would be the king in the next life.
d. Ephesians 1:21 says that He is above all governments and has a name that is greater than all names in this life and that which is to come.
e. “King of Kings” means that he is presently the President of all presidents, the King of all kings; the Prime Minister over all prime ministers, the Governor over all governors. In other words, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Spitzer, and President Bush are all presently accountable to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Ruler!
f. This is political, not merely spiritual, because it means Jesus is judging these authorities in regards to public policy, international issues, the economy, taxation, tort laws, etc. In other words, how their policies and laws reflect the law-word of God, especially the laws extrapolated out of the Ten Commandments in the civil laws of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.
a. Ecclesia is the Greek word for “church” in the New Testament.
b. Jesus chose a well-known secular word with political implications to describe His followers.
c. In Greek culture, the ecclesia were the citizens that came together in a community to enact public policy. Ecclesia, broadly speaking, means to come together to rule. In other words, Jesus called His followers the new congress of His kingdom.
4. The Gates of Hell
In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says the church would assault the gates of hell, which are ungodly political and social systems. “Gates” is an Old Testament term that denotes where the elders of a city met to enact public policy, declare war, and conduct financial and legal business.
5. The Crucifixion
a. Jesus was not crucified because of religious reasons, but because of politics! Roman-Greco culture was a polytheistic society with thousands of gods and religions.
b. They would never execute someone for religious reasons because they were not a monotheistic empire. The New Testament teaches that Jesus was crucified because He proclaimed Himself a king, in essence the only true Caesar or potentate (1 Timothy 6:15) which became a threat to the political powers of the time.
c. Notice in John 18:37 Jesus told Pilate that His purpose for coming to the world was to be king and testify to the truth. John 19:12, 15-16 show that Pilate was about to let Jesus go free until the Jewish leaders said that Christ’s claim to be king threatened Caesar’s kingdom and rule.
In conclusion, we cannot understand the Gospel, the kingdom of God, the nature of the church, or the mission of Christ without understanding their political and social implications.###
Endnotes by Editor:
1 Actually it says, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (NASB).
2 We can go along with this as stated, but we reject any notion that, as Dominionists purport, the Church will be able to somehow be able to take dominion over the governments and societies of the world during the Church Age prior to the Parousia or Return of Christ. We are not inferring that the author is implying anything other than what he states here or that he personally holds to Dominionist beliefs.
3 We have not read this book by the author, and thus are unaware of the doctrinal viewpoints expressed in it. Hence, the publishing of this article does not imply either an endorsement or a repudiation of the book.
Source: http://josephmattera.org; entitled, “God, Politics, & the Kingdom of God.”
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