Friday, February 15, 2008

THE EVANGELICAL CO-BELLIGERENTS want real change? impact culture by the gospel - not politics


While some evangelical leaders are trying to figure out how to stop drinking the biblically-lite, culturally irrelevant, theologically neutered, ecumenical, emerging, "King of the Week", scatological Kool-Aid being sold cheap on the road-side by Driscoll and Mar's Hill Church (MHC), the political/cultural/election cycle churns on.

How are Christians to impact their society for the Lord Jesus Christ? That question used to be simple to answer - through the proclamation and living out of the gospel.

But not anymore.

Some evangelicals stutter when confronted with that question. For them, the new gospel is: "political remedy for moral malady."

The "C-Bees" (Evangelical Co-Belligerents) don't know what to do with me and other biblical pro-church; pro-gospel; pro-preaching of God's Word; pro-living out your faith, pro-trusting in the Sovereignty of God when it comes to governmental authority, and pro-love thy neighbor Christians these days. Some want to adopt the ever dying-out, irrelevant, and "screaming for a voice" Theonomy/Reconstructionist view (I think I saw three of them the other day singing on a street corner in downtown Nashville, "We Are the Champions of the World" holding up signs chanting, "postmillennialism rules!").

And others, thinking if they can get their kind of judges and congressional leaders elected/reelected the course of moral decline will be reversed in our nation. Whatever extreme you might find yourself, one thing is for certain, I haven't seen people get their dire up like this in a long time over political issues. I understand their angst, for ECBers are emotionally charged, politically motivated, but desperately trying to find a Scriptural foundation for their existence and efforts.

I can honestly say, to all of those who are on the opposite side of the biblical fence on this issue, if these little "Justice Sunday" gatherings (remember them?) were to have a biblical objective of informing the body of Christ across our land on the following I would be affirming you and not challenging your quest for cultural relevance and change.

Here is my ECB olive-branch:

1.) define and explain the role of government, Scripturally;

2.) define and explain the role of the church, Scripturally;

3.) define and explain the role of the individual believer and the role of the church in a pagan society and to government, Scripturally;

4.) define and explain civil obedience, Scripturally;

5.) define and explain civil disobedience, Scripturally (how we are to engage society and/or government when we disagree with its practices and moorings)

6.) define and explain the key issues facing our culture from a biblical worldview, Scripturally;

7.) define and explain why the body of Christ should be praying for our government officials in those matters, Scripturally; and then lead them in a time of collective prayer;

8.) define and explain ways in which we can bring the gospel into that arena so that we can fulfill the Lord's clear command for the church in the Great Commission, Scripturally;

9.) define and explain how God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, as regenerated beings in Christ through the Holy Spirit, practically unfold itself in this arena, Scripturally;

10.) and lastly, define and explain what kind of actions as citizens of this earth, upholding the laws of the land, but yet faithful first and foremost to the Lord and His Word, can practically engage themselves in these issues without compromising their testimony, the gospel, or the standard of God's Word? Scripturally.

If the C-Bees purpose and practice for gathering were anything resembling the above, I would support them. But with one important exception clause: we would still need to work through the unbiblical practice of co-belligerence (making allies in the cultural wars with nonbelievers violating 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1) that they currently and naively embrace.

Read the Apostle Peter's instruction to the dispersed and persecuted under Nero's ruthless reign.
They didn't picket; they didn't boycott; they didn't lead protests or petition drives. They didn't using politics to solve the moral ills of our nation, partnering with nonbelievers, and letting Romanists, who deny sola fide, share time behind the "sacred desk" in Bible believing Baptist churches on the Lord's Day because they're against the demise of family values. And they didn't make family values a cultural moral cause. They evangelized (Titus 3:1-8)!

"Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. 18Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God" (1 Peter 2:13-20).

2 Cor. 4:5


Alexander M Jordan said...

Hi Steve:

I recently discovered your blog and your AudienceOne sites-- both have really challenged my thinking regarding what is the best, Scripturally justified method for reaching our world with the message of the gospel. I still haven't sorted all the issues out in my mind, but your articles have really spurred me to re-evaluate these issues carefully and Scripturally.

Today, I posted an article on my Jordan's View website called "Christian Manifestos and Evangelical Co-Belligerance" (
and-evangelical.html. In it, I refer to one of your earlier posts on this topic. I would really covet your comments on my article, if you have an opportunity to have a look.

Blessings in Christ!!


Shawn L said...

Steve Camp,

I agree with you with your opinion on Justice Sunday, but I was thinking about this a little more.

Here's something to consider and I would like to hear your response.

The church is a community of believers who don't just meet together on Sunday to worship and listen to the message for 1.5 hours. And you would agree with that I know.

We are the church throughout the week and gather with one another through the week to worship, share prayer request and study God's Word together. We also are supposed to put our whole lives to glorify God. Encourage one another to live holy lives and how to deal with money and how to live as a good citizen in our society. All of this through the lens of the Bible and encouraging one another in Biblical study.

Part of this does mean also teaching each other how to conduct ourselves as citizens in the US and how to use our American freedoms to share the gospel more and how to vote, etc.

We should drink and eat to the glory of God and show people how to Glorify God in all of life.

So meeting on Sunday or any other day isn't necessarily a problem is it if it is under the lens of scripture and purpose if for Glorifying God. Wouldn't you agree?

It's that we can glorify God by our study of scriptures learning how to conduct ourselves in the republic and that's okay in my opinion.

To me it is also very different than holding a republican rally though.

Shawn L said...


I also wanted to let you know that 2 posts a day is fabulous especially considering the biblical depth with which you write. I feel funny because I can't even post a response and you have written a new one.

Thank you for having them coming, they are such an encouragment to all of us and a prophetic voice for our generation. I hope you are encouraged as well where you live.

By God's Grace,

loren said...

Hi Steve,

I think you’re right to be apprehensive about Christian political involvement, because most Christians have simply not thought it through. But I do think your Olive Branch offers a very good fabric for grappling with this issue.

I know you won’t allow anyone to write a book on your blog, so I’ll just address your first question for now. The earliest political theory was all based on the Bible. In particular, the role of government was defined at length by John Locke, in his Second Treatise on Government. There is a company in Nashville called Knowledge Products, and they have an excellent tape for a crash course on his theories.

Basically, God has instilled us with certain unalienable rights as the product of His creation. For example, we were made in His image so no one else can enslave us. Liberty becomes a right. He has given us the ability to think, conclude, and believe, so freedom of speech, press, and religion become our rights. They reflect what He has endowed us with.

Men exist, originally, in a ‘state of nature’ and form a society (Prov 3:29). In a perfect world this is all we would need. But because man is imperfect, government is established to restrain the vices of society (Rom 13:4). The role of the government is to protect our rights. This leads to ‘social contract theory’ which is too long to go into now, and in fact that’s probably enough for now. But I hope there are some more comments and some more discussion.

Breuss Wane said...

C'mon Steve. Haven't you read Saint Greg Bahnsen, who, already answered all of those questions "biblically"? :-)

Reformer said...

Here's a thought - for whatever it might be worth.

I am teaching throught he Beatitudes here at Emmanuel on Wed nights. Last night I taught Matt 5.8 "Blessed are the PURE IN HEART." I was drawn to look at the cultural/historical context in which Christ made that statement. His hearers were reared under the tutelage of the Pharisees, who would have written this Beatitude to say "Blessed are the outwardly clean." The Pharisees were the politically conservative, culturaly conservative, socially conservative sect of the day (imagine the right side of the GOP), and yet Christ never joined arms with them to create cultural change, he condemned them because their hearts were divided and not "pure." Piper says, "The aim of Christ is not to reform the manners of society, but the change the hearts of sinners like you and me."

loren said...

Hi Steve,

May I make a suggestion? ECB has proven to be a repetitive subject on your blog, and one you are obviously passionate about. Your olive branch, I think, has a world of potential for Christians on both sides of the argument. Yet it would take a great deal of discussion to do it justice. Soon, as additional postings come, this posting will drop further and further down your home page, till it drops off.

I would like to suggest building a second blog to be dedicated to this subject, and listing it on this blog with a hyperlink. (As an example, if you've ever looked at my blog, I have 'break-out modules' in the left-hand column, and this system has worked out well for me.) Each 'point' would be a separate article, which allowed comments that were specific to that point. Soon, others would make their own links to the module, etc.

This way, when you have new articles on this subject, you can reference your readers to the other blog as a standing forum. Because it really does get to the heart of the issue. I know that would take some work, but please pray about it.

Greg Gordon said...

Here is a resource you might want to share with others:

Puritan Devotional Podcast:


donsands said...

George Whitefield was one of the Lord's most powerful preachers and servants.
He preached the Gospel, everywhere and anywhere. He held high the Word of the Lord, which is truth.

And he had as one of his best friends, Ben Franklin, who was a political figure and an unbeliever.

I think this is more what our Lord calls his rulers to do.

Share the Gospel; breath it with every breath. And leave politics alone, and keep it out of the pulpits. And surely pray for the political leaders, and vote for those whom you deem best to lead this nation.

And there's nothing wrong with befriending politicians, and hopefully some will come to Christ, and repent of their sinful life, and turn to God.

"Impact culture by the Gospel--not politics."
Amen Campi. Amen.

R W S said...

I do think the most important thing one can do is proclaim the gospel but that does not take away the fact we live in a world that is governed in a different manner than what was or existed in the past . We have the ability to engage numerous issues publicly but in all circumstances it must have its root in scripture. Even the motivation of doing good most have its root in Christ and the Cross or we will get it wrong.
We cannot moralize society by making rules or regulations , all we have to do is look at Old Testament Israel but that does not mean we cannot fight oppression and be an advocate for justice . I look to what William Wilberforce did in Great Britain as a politician, who brought the weight of his Christian convictions to bear on his politics .But that is different then making the church a political animal.If we really want society to change , we first must be gospel driven , after that , the rest will take care of itself as God changes dead hearts into living, beating gospel driven Christians .

Anonymous said...

Someone's record player is stuck...

littlegal_66 said...

Hi, pds--

Although I personally didn't perceive this article to be all about Mark Driscoll or the emergent movement, my expectation (and frankly my hope) is that what you have seen here (and perhaps on other blogs) over the past few months in that regard is merely the tip of the iceberg....IOW, you ain't seen nothing yet....

Look--fortunately, the further the Word is strayed from, the harder the guardians of the trust will strive to get Christian ministry back to a Christ-centered, Biblically based, doctrinally sound expression of the gospel......(you may as well get used to it, brother). (1 Timothy 6:20).

I'm grateful that throughout church history, there have been those that refuse to pick up the needle and move on to the next groove of the platter when their "record players get stuck." (Good thing Luther didn't give up and move on to the next LP in his collection when he found himself repeating the same thing over and over in order to get his message across).

Debbie said...

Matthew 5:14,16 -- “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” When juxtaposed against the often wearisome and bleak backdrop of politics, these verses describe a vibrant and hope filled witness, lived out wherever we may be and in whatever arena we may find ourselves. IOW, our witness will be noticed. He then describes how that light “looks” to those on whom it shines ---- it is characterized by good works and lived in such a way that others will glorify Him. Always pointing others to Him. How to point others to the hope of the cross in one breath and proclaim a “political remedy for a moral malady” in the next --- they seem incompatible.

Pondering the list of 10,

Carla said...

I was reading some things today about the current state of the evangelical church, and those within it that wish to see a reformation toward a more Christ-centered, God honoring church, as opposed to the modern nonsense of watering down Christianity to appeal to the culture.

What I found to be most interesting, was the intentional, personal character attacks on those who want reformation the most. The comments made weren't about doctrine, or policitcal leanings, or theology - but they were intentionally personal about the moral character of those who are a very real voice in the wilderness of Evangelcism 2008.

Steve, you say in the title that real change comes when we impact the culture by the gospel. While I certainly agree with that, I find it alarming how many Christians truly do NOT believe that. Their focus is purely cultural bells and whistles - i.e., adapting to the local culture in such a way that they themselves don't even look/sound/act like Christians anymore.

When that happens, they aren't impacting anyone with anything worth having, they themselves are the ones being impacted and caving in to the sin warped culture.

You signed off with "FOCUS ON THE FAITH". Amen. If only more Christians would do that, these conversations would be moot.

Thanks for today's post. Much appreciated.



donsands said...

"When that happens, they aren't impacting anyone with anything worth having, they themselves are the ones being impacted and caving in to the sin warped culture."

Yes. Good warning here.

I love the idea of breathing the Gospel. It should be our very life. Like Jerry Bridges says, "We need to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day".
And then when we engage with the world, the world will hate us, but there will be those, who will be drawn by the Father to the Cross of His Beloved Son.
And that's exciting.

I think there's a way to contextualize, as Francis Schaefer, and Hudson Taylor did so well, but I agree with Carla, way more than not the Church is becoming like the world, and loosing its righteousness, and is not speaking the deep truths of the Lord in love.

Christinewjc said...

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Marriage: The Image of God

Go to the site and click on the arrow on the right of that particular message.

When you view this video, you will see what the illicit sexual battles being faced by the church today are really all about. The fact is, it is not really only a physical battle, but more importantly, a spiritual battle that is transpiring.

That Baptist Ain't Right said...

Excellent post.There is an honest-to-Pete drive for Dominionism going on right now & the political forces are playing on the emotions of our faith. They are using us to get votes. Moreover, many of the faith "leaders" are willingly going along for their own power grabs. When church & state meld, both become unbearable.

JoeL said...

Steve, what a good article. You and I used to disagree on this subject. I worked at a so-called PRO-FAMILY group in Louisville. All I can say is the only thing it stands for is what the next donor wants them to believe (or not believe)



The Seeking Disciple said...

Great post Steve. I think its funny that emergents preach so hard against Focus on the Family, Pat Robertson, etc. for supporting Republicans and yet emergents are quick to preach a social gospel that is very much in line with the Democratic party. It seems right now that emergents love Barak Obama and feel that he is their answer to their prayers for a complete socialistic nation.

How sad that too many Christians have bought into much of what the emergents are preaching and that is that government can save us. Only Christ is our hope.

Shamgar said...

Steve, I would love to respond point by point to your questions - but as another commenter noted it would be very long, and if you did allow it I doubt anyone would read it. (Especially since this post is already so far down the blog.)

Second, I think we largely agree - and the post wasn't really aimed at people like me.

I will say that I think civil disobedience does have a place, and I think both Paul and Jesus demonstrated it. Jesus didn't have any qualms about violating the law - or perhaps more accurately their interpretation of it - where it conflicted with what was right, and neither did Paul, or many others.

We can also go to the old testament and demonstrate where God repeatedly used means to accomplish the ends of change in the governmental structure of a nation. (Ehud for example)

Now, that isn't to justify any civil disobedience or resistance, peaceful or otherwise. Merely to point out that there is a standard there, and though we may disagree on how it gets applied, I think we both recognize it.

Further, I think you know I vehemently disagree with the Huckabee-ist notion that we can somehow reform our culture through legislative means. (I know it didn't originate with him, but he is the most forward proponent of it in this election.) You and I would both agree I think that forcing a mold of "right" behavior is just another form of pharisaical thought, that it is just Old Roman Catholicism in a new "protestant" form.

I would again stress though that I do believe that Christians can make a difference in politics - just not the way these people are trying. In fact, we are suited more than anyone else to this task because we (should) understand the basis for law and order in a society.

It is true that many Christians fall prey to the machine and compromise their faith for a seat at the table, and that disgusts me the same as it does you. Even some people I like have fallen prey to that at times. Yet many Christians likewise fall prey to this same pressure in the corporate world, and worse even within the role of pastor many have fallen to this in dealing with society and other faiths and such.

The job you do is not what makes you more or less immune to the influence of an ungodly worldview.

Some of us - myself in particular - are involved in politics not to reform our culture, but our government. To re-inject sanity into our legislative process, with a sound consistent and biblical worldview governing how we do things.

I don't tell people things to get elected that I don't believe, and I don't shrink back from stating what I believe for fear of the impact it will have on my continued influence. God is sovereign, and whether I am put in a position to continue to influence our political process or not is in his hands, and no-one else's.

What I want is simply to return to a limited government, where it is restricted to its rightful role. One particular area of import to this discussion is that of freedom of speech. We have already seen in other countries where speaking openly the truth of the Christian faith in supposedly free countries has resulted in imprisonment or worse. Lord willing, I want to be an agent for preventing this - or at least I want to put up the fight.

I don't want to see an Ezra Lavant happen here, or a Danny Nalliah either. That may not be God's will for us. Heaven knows his judgment is clearly on this nation. However, I won't stand by and watch it happen.

I see the government policies directly harming the worst off in our society, our poor and our aged. Their poor economic policy with its resulting rampant inflation hurts them the most. Almost as bad, it hurts the middle class, who are in the best position to help them through charitable efforts.

It's hardly fulfilling my Christian duty to say nothing and do nothing and say "God is in control of the government." Absolutely he is, but he is also the one who gives good gifts to men, and the fact that he hasn't given them directly to someone in need does not absolve those of us who have from obligations towards those who do not.