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Christ and Culture, Mike Horton…’The Biblical Drama’ continues.

December 20, 2011

  1. Fr. Robert,

    The bottom line, this whole issue boils down to one’s personality. One type of person believes he should let his light shine exclusively through his everyday actions and words. His idea of changing society is from the inside out. His philosophy is “Change the heart of the people, change society; politics, laws, morals, values, etc.” And yet another person believes that “We Christians are very much a part of society, so wouldn’t it stand to reason that we would want a say in the very politics that powerfully shape our society’s morals and values.”

    They are both right, but not to the exclusion of the other. These two views are two sides of the same necessary coin. Changing the heart changes society. Legislating morals and values-based policy (to a point), keeps God in the societal consciousness. However, if we focus too much on the politics and/or legislative end, we eventually turn Pharisaic, glorifying human rules over a spiritual heart-relationship with Christ. On the other hand, if the hearts and minds of a people change, so too do their laws, values, morals, the entire societal structure.

    We need both: contain the contagion through politics but simultaneously spread the cure. When the hearts of the people do finally mend, they will not only understand and accept their previously “imposed” values, morals, and God-consciousness, but they will also seek to improve them, and they will do so with the help of all those who first changed from the inside out.

    • Todd,

      Behind this whole piece by Horton, is the so-called doctrine of the ‘Two Kingdoms’ (2K), which goes back to Luther and also Calvin. It is really a theological issue and debate, about the Church and the Christian in the fallen world. I would generally agree with Calvin here, but certainly the issue of the visible Church in the world is also a biblical/theological debate. Myself as one that believes in the historical and even visible Church Catholic, it is an important subject!

      • Btw, both Luther & Calvin believed in the Visible aspect of the Church being Catholic! Myself too, I will never surrender this position!

  2. Did I somehow miss the point with my comment? It seems to me this whole issue is about whether Christians should or should not participate in societal reform.

    • Todd,

      No you did not miss it, I am always one that sees a position from its theological history, in this case its the Reformers Luther, and also Calvin. And yet they are not at all like the Anabaptists here, but saw the great importance of the Visible Church. As you know, I am one that believes the Church must always define itself as a “Catholic” Body… “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” (Matt. 5: 14-15) Also from verse 13, this is a collective truth, and the ‘Salt & Light’ can be dimmed, and even collectively lost! See the Churches in Rev. 2-3, also.

      I feel that there is not always a strong sense of the Visible Church with many so-called Evangelicals. The collective Church must always realize its Catholic and visible nature, i.e. The Incarnate Body of Christ on earth!

  3. Fr. Robert,

    I agree with you, but your focus on the visibility of the organizational Church is only one necessary side of the coin.

    We can see why there are essentially two opposite approaches here if we look at the issue from a personality standpoint (God did create unique personalities for uniquely different ministries, did he not). One type of personality seeks to spiritually change society from the inside out, person by single person. The second type of personality seeks to Spiritually change society at the public level, thus keeping Spiritual culture alive in our society. We may not recognize personality as what drives us each to uphold one approach over the other, but nonetheless this is why we do what we do.

    I agree with you that the Church must be visible – after all, the Church is God’s provision for social conscience – but at the same time we must not forget that the Church begins first in the heart, and only then does it manifest outwardly to the world, not the other way around. As I said in my previous comment, we must be careful to not place so much emphasis on the world at large (the organizational Church’s public footprint) that we forget the individual hearts within society. We historically have the tendency to get so caught up in the zeal of “religious reform” that we forget the heart, and religious legalism always ensues (Phariseeism).

    Nevertheless, the irony here is why we each lean toward one side of the issue or the other, or in my case, both. The reason is personality. If we would each personally see the spiritual importance of each approach – realizing that our personal preference is due to the personality type God gave us – we would team up with each other instead of bicker and fight, accusing each other of either faulty theology or spiritual weakness. We would say to each other, “Okay, because you are gifted in presenting Christ’s message to the public at large, you should take your witness out into the public arena. But I, on the other hand, am better at one-on-one witnessing, so I will maintain my person-to-person approach, and together we will show Christ to the world.” Both of these approaches together, is truly what the Church is all about – both approaches, not one to the exclusion of the other.

    Otherwise, we will carry on with our pointless theological fist fighting, “No, my approach is better and yours is wrong”, because we each think our little piece of understanding is the whole thing. It isn’t! Truth is the whole thing, but it works on many different levels, and does so according to one’s unique personality.

  4. Todd,

    Many forms of so-called Evangelicalism have been steeped in the teaching of the Invisible Church for many, many years. Sadly it is just about all some Evangelicals know! My connection thru my greatgram with the so-called Plymouth Brethren in Ireland as a boy, was my first introduction with this whole mentality. It is also reflected in Anabaptist teaching & theology, at least on the doctrine of the church. So I am simply seeking to offset this over emphasis, by degree somewhat. To my mind, in the end anyway, everything turns back to the doctrine of God; and here again is theology – the study of God! And GOD has a Church Catholic and Visible!

    *I have not gone into depth here, as to the Church: both Visible & Invisible, but again, only the Churches that see and believe in the visible reality of the Church Catholic even go here!

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