FIRST, THE NEWS:
PUTIN STUMPS FOR THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN FILM CELEBRATING ANNIVERSARY OF KIEVAN RUS
from The Atlantic
(29 July) This week, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus celebrate the 1,025th anniversary of the Christianization of Kievan Rus, the medieval state that existed between the 9th and 13th centuries, which, depending on one's historical and political stance, is seen as the precursor of these three nations. In Russia, the celebration of this important anniversary included the release of a documentary entitled The Second Christianization of Rus. This film, along with other recent events, shows how the political culture of modern Russia is tilting towards Byzantinism and Eurasianism, the political trends that juxtapose Russia and the West and emphasize the role of Eastern Orthodox Church in the construction of Russia's identity. While Byzantinism portrays Russia as a political and cultural heir of the Byzantine Empire, Eurasianism allots Russia a messianic role in connecting the East and West. Both schools of thought isolate Russia from the world.
Produced by the metropolitan of Volokolamsk who is also chairman of the Department of External Church Relations, Hilarion Alfeyev, The Second Christianization of Rus was shown last week on the state owned TV channel Rossia-1. The title speaks for itself: the years after the fall of the Soviet Union are portrayed as the time of the great religious revival in Russia, i.e., the return of Russian Orthodox faith. Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, talks throughout the film about the significance of the Eastern Orthodox Church for the building of Russia's new spiritual identity. Putin says that as a child he was baptized by his mother secretly from his father and that this event affected him for the rest of his life. "There was a spiritual vacuum after the fall of the Soviet Union... true values are religious values... the return to religion marks the natural revival of the Russian people," he says in the film. [read more...]
DELEGATIONS OF EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCHES ARRIVE IN MOSCOW FOR 1,025 YEARS SINCE BAPTIZING OF KIEVAN RUS
from The Voice of Russia
(22 Jul) Delegations of the Eastern Orthodox Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Romania, and Cyprus arrived in Moscow on Monday to take part in the festivities marking the 1,025 years since the adoption of Eastern Orthodox Christian faith by Kievan Rus. "The Jerusalem and Cyprian delegations are led by the supreme hierarchs of these Churches - Patriarch Theophilos III and Archbishop Chrysostom," Moscow Patriarchate's department for external church relations said. According to the department spokesman, the Reverend Igor Yakimchuk, the top-ranking clerics and the accompanying delegations will take part in the festivities that were held from July 24 through to July 29 in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus at the level of both governments of the three countries and the Church.
The delegations of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the supreme hierarch of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, Metropolitan Tikhon, who arrived in Moscow Sunday, were expected to have meetings with the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill I Monday. Delegations of all the fifteen national Orthodox Churches will take part in the jubilee festivities and eight delegations will be led by the ruling hierarchs of the respective Churches. Festive liturgies and sermons were held in Moscow July 24, in Kiev July 27/28 and in Minsk July 29. Patriarch Irinej of Serbia and the Metropolitan of all America and Canada Tikhon arrived in Moscow. On July 23, Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria, Patriarch Elijah II of Georgia, Patriarch Neophyte I of Bulgaria, and the supreme hierarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Poland, Archbishop of Warsaw and all Poland Sabbas arrived. [read more...]
UZBEKISTAN: VIOLENT POLICE ASSAULT ON PROTESTANT
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service
(02 Aug) On 14 June police Captain Shukhrat Masharipov, Chief of the local police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Urgench [Urganch] in the north-western Khorezm Region, stopped Sardorbek Nurmetov in the street near Urgench's railway station. He belongs to an unregistered local Protestant church, and lives in the Region's Khanki District. Captain Masharipov was accompanied by another unknown officer who would not identify himself. Under the guise of passport control they took Nurmetov to the nearest police station, where they confiscated a memory stick from him containing Christian materials, local Protestants told Forum 18 on 31 July. "Of course they know who Nurmetov is, and it is no accident that he was stopped by the police," a Protestant who knows Nurmetov told Forum 18.
Police officers then brought Nurmetov to Urgench City Police Station. There, Captain Masharipov five times hit Nurmetov with a thick book on the head and then delivered blows to his head and chest, and kicked his legs. As a result of this, Nurmetov became "dizzy, weakened, and felt like vomiting." Captain Masharipov refused to call for an ambulance, despite Nurmetov's requests for this. In violation of Uzbek law, Nurmetov was kept at Urgench's main police station from 14.30 to 21.00, and not allowed to move, drink water, or go to the toilet, Protestants told Forum 18.
"Masharipov treated Nurmetov brutally and tortured him, which is a severe violation of his rights and the Criminal Code," a Protestant told Forum 18. Violence and torture, or threats of this, by police and other officials are "routine" the United Nations Committee Against Torture has found (see eg. F18News 14 August 2012.
SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF RUSSIA AND BELARUS SHOULD BECOME BASIS FOR THEIR INTEGRATION - PATRIARCH KIRILL
(30 Jul) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said he urged Russia and Belarus to build cooperation on the basis of the two countries' Orthodox traditions. "The very spiritual foundation laid 1,025 years ago is common for all nations, who are successors of Duke Vladimir and Kievan Rus. And this common foundation is the most important and fundamental thing, which should be the basis for our cooperation and our integration," Patriarch Kirill said in Minsk at a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
"If this foundation is the basis for integration, if the building of the future grows on this foundation, heavy rains will not wash it away and no earthquakes will destroy it. This building will sustain the test of time," Patriarch Kirill said. The patriarch said he thanked Lukashenko for the high level of preparation "which ensured wonderful celebration of the holiday [1,025th anniversary of Kievan Rus' Christianization in Belarus]." Patriarch Kirill said that he noted the positive changes in Belarus in the recent years and that Minsk was a beautiful, cozy and secure city. [read more...]
UZBEKISTAN: PENSIONERS OWNING BIBLES FINED OVER TWO YEARS' PENSION
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service
(19 Jul) After coordinated police raids on four Protestant-owned homes in a village near Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent, two pensioners in their sixties and two other local Protestants had Christian and other literature seized from their homes, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. In late June, the four home-owners were fined a combined total of 230 times Uzbekistan's official minimum monthly wage for having Bibles, as well as other works including a non-religious book by American author Dale Carnegie.
Many believers are afraid to keep religious literature in their homes, a cross-section of people have told Forum 18. Baptists, for example, told Forum 18 on 15 June that "Church members have repeatedly been warned recently that keeping a Bible at home is allowed, but reading it can only be done at specially designated places for carrying out religious rituals." Officials often ignore published law in carrying out raids, prosecutions, and punishments against people who keep religious literature without state permission in their homes. "You won't find this in any law," another Protestant, who asked not to be identified for fear of state reprisals, pointed out to Forum 18 from Tashkent on 16 July.
Many Christians have hidden their religious literature, the Protestant noted. Other Christians have taken all the books they have to state-registered places of worship. The state's pressure is so strong that some believers think they have no choice but to destroy their own sacred texts. For example, the Protestant also cited with distress cases where individuals have reluctantly destroyed their own Christian books, including Bibles. "I personally know of three such cases," the Protestant told Forum 18. "Many other Christians said to me they can't bring themselves to destroy their Bibles." [read more...]
CONFERENCE "BIBLICAL STUDIES, WEST AND EAST: TRENDS, CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS" TO BE HELD IN LVIV
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(01 Aug) 19-20 September 2013 the Department of Theology of the Ukrainian Catholic University will hosted international conference "Biblical Studies, West and East: Trends, Challenges and Prospects." Keynote speakers will be Emmanuel Tov, Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Reinhard Neudecker SJ, Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome; Janusz Czerski, University of Opole, Poland; Peter Dubovsky, Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome; and Paolo Garuti, Angelicum, Rome / Ecole biblique, Jerusalem. Theological scholarship in Ukraine was suppressed for decades by the communist regime. Today Ukraine is witnessing a revival of interest in theology and related disciplines. Over the past years many young Ukrainian theologians have obtained their academic degrees from world class universities.
International in scope, the conference seeks to stimulate scholarly enquiry, constructive dialogue and interactions between and among different Christian traditions with a special interest in the current condition and future prospects of Biblical scholarship in ecumenical perspective. The aim is that young academics and senior scholars whether from the leading centers of Biblical studies or from emerging schools will have a chance to respond to their colleagues' work in a professional and academic setting. As Ukraine stands at the crossroads of Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Catholic and Protestant) theological worlds, the conference is particularly open to insights that reflect Ukraine's "nexus" position in Biblical Studies between Eastern and Western Christian traditions. The conference will include two days of keynote talks in the morning and panels in the afternoon. [read more...]
UKRAINE: CHURCH HEAD TO ARRIVE BY ARMORED 'TEMPLE' TRAIN
from BBC News
RUSSIA: ORTHODOX RELICS BLOCK JEHOVAH'S WITNESS MEETING
from Forum 18 News Service
UNKNOWN INDIVIDUALS THROW BOTTLE WITH EXPLOSIVE MIXTURE IN NIZHNY NOVGOROD CHURCH
PRAYERS NEEDED FOR NATASHA BRUTSKI
from Mission Network News
PERESOPNYTSIA MUSEUM HAS ASSEMBLED A UNIQUE COLLECTION OF BIBLES
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
PATRIARCHATE CLAIMS THE PUBLIC SUPPORTS ITS ANTI-GAY POSITION
NEWLY PUBLISHED SCRIPTURE STRENGTHENS CHRISTIANS FROM MUSLIM BACKGROUND
from Russian Ministries
THE POWER AND THE FAITH - ROMANIA'S ORTHODOX CHURCH
from BBC News
See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!
In the first news article, the author begins by stating: "the Christianization of Kievan Rus, the medieval state that existed between the 9th and 13th centuries, which, depending on one's historical and political stance, is seen as the precursor of these three nations." It's as if your worldview determines reality. The author then pooh-poohs Russian president Putin's statement which is the premise of the film The Second Christianization of Rus, that "There was a spiritual vacuum after the fall of the Soviet Union... true values are religious values... the return to religion marks the natural revival of the Russian people," But keep in mind the source: The Atlantic magazine is a mouthpiece for leftist-utopian east coast liberalism, based on the relativistic notion that you can believe anything you want about God, human society and historical facts.
As a student of Russian history, I find it inconceivable that any educated person could believe ancient Kievan Rus was not the precursor of today's Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. But the author must try to undermine historical facts so that he can continue to dismantle the idea that God is actually, really and truly, at work in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine to bring about a revival of society based on true values, religious values -- Christian values. But this is what is actually taking place in those countries, despite the desire of Western liberalism to undermine it! Someone please inform the folks at The Atlantic: the marxist utopia of communism has vaporized into thin air. "Utopia" literally means "nowhere," and that is where marxism leads.
On a personal note, the previous issue was four weeks ago because we were on a 5,250-mile, 25-day road trip vacation visiting family and friends. Last weekend while in Pittsburgh PA we bought a condo there, so we will be moving there next month and will do volunteer work with FOCUS North America, an inner city ministry. Please pray with us for the quick sale of our present condo in Madison WI!
(After you've read this issue, please tell us what you think! Write your feedback in our comment form, and it will appear immediately so that others can respond.)
[This is an excerpt from Chapter 12 of my book The Ministry Driven Church.
It's also on our website as an online course, and you can try out the course's interactive questions HERE.]
We must stand firm and constantly resist the pull of the flesh to revert back to a secular, worldly view of freedom: "You can do whatever you want; go ahead and sin so that grace may abound!" This is the pharisaical, hypocritical worldview. Then St. Paul makes a shocking statement: "If you want to be justified by the law, you are alienated from Christ and you have fallen away from grace!" Those are very strong words, but they aren't mine, they're from the pen of the Apostle. We can fall away from grace and cut ourselves off from Christ if we twist liberty into legalism or license. How can that be?
This is the same Paul who wrote such comforting and assuring words of God's foreknowledge of us and His predestination for us in Rom. 8:29-30 - "For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Whom he predestined, those he also called. Whom he called, those he also justified. Whom he justified, those he also glorified." God, he writes in verses 38-39, will not let anything separate us from His love - "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Here we see clearly the free will/predestination dilemma.
Paul shows us both sides of the coin in 2 Tim. 2:10-13 - "Therefore I endure all things for the chosen ones' sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. This saying is faithful: 'For if we died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he also will deny us. If we are faithless, he remains faithful. He can't deny himself.'" First he mentions the "chosen ones," God's elect whom He has predestined from before the beginning of time for salvation and glory. But then Paul talks about the possibility of denying Christ to escape suffering for His sake, which would result in Christ denying us.
In other words, Christ will never break His covenant with us, but we have the choice of our own free will to dissolve the covenant by denying Him. This is the most extreme form of faithlessness. A husband or wife may be faithless in marriage, but the marriage covenant remains in force until one of them gets a divorce. Paul writes in v. 13 that Christ will never "file for divorce," He will never break His covenant with us, He will always remain faithful. John Wesley, who is usually considered to hold a free-will Arminian position, comments - "That is, though some believe not, God will make good all his promises to them that do believe. He cannot deny himself - His word cannot fail."6 So Wesley interprets "we" in these verses to refer to two classes of people, unbelievers and believers, rather than only to believers who later recant.
A more difficult passage for "easy-believism" church people to deal with is Heb. 6:4-9 -
For concerning those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify the Son of God for themselves again, and put him to open shame. For the land which has drunk the rain that comes often on it, and brings forth a crop suitable for them for whose sake it is also tilled, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and thistles, it is rejected and near being cursed, whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded of better things for you, and things that accompany salvation, even though we speak like this.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews clearly states that it is possible for a person who has tasted the heavenly gift and partaken of the Holy Spirit to later fall away, in which case the dissolution of the covenant is permanent and cannot be restored, just as God's Word forbids a person to remarry the same partner after getting a divorce from him or her (Deut. 24:1-4). And though the above author closes this passage with the conciliatory words "near being cursed," i.e., not already cursed, and "we are persuaded of better things for you," he has nonetheless posited an extreme resolution for the extreme case of falling away. This was not a nonsense statement or merely a hypothetical case: the author would not have written it if it was a theological impossibility; rather, it was day-to-day reality in the first century A.D. when Christians were tortured and killed if they refused to deny their faith in Christ and burn incense to Caesar.
There are many other passages that support one side or the other of this age-old dilemma about free will versus predestination, but these few will suffice. Both Calvinists and Arminians can trot out their proof texts to advance their own positions, and each will ignore or belittle the other's arguments and proof texts. How can we resolve this dilemma? If humans are to be held morally responsible for their decisions, they must have free will to make those decisions. God cannot punish someone if that person didn't choose to do wrong. On the other hand, God is sovereign and is ultimately in control of everything that happens in the universe. The very concept of a "universe," a unified and coherent system of galaxies, stars, planets, moons and comets makes no sense if there is no intelligent design, which requires an intelligent and omnipotent Designer.
For years in my early Christian life I struggled with these issues. Finally I resolved them in three ways. First, this is a man-made dilemma, one we humans have devised in our pseudo-clever little brains. It is on the order of the question Jesus' disciples asked about the end times that Jesus answered by saying that the angels of heaven and even the Son of Man (at least while in human flesh) did not know, or the question they asked after His resurrection about whether He would now restore the kingdom to Israel and He replied - "It's none of your business to know," or the silly question whether God can make a rock so heavy He can't lift it. Such meaningless word games are simply the wrong questions to ask. My philosophy professor in university said that you can't get the right answer if you ask the wrong question.
Recall in our discussion of agape-love that after His resurrection Jesus asked Peter three times, "Do you love Me?" That is the right question to ask. Do you really love Jesus Christ? When Jesus then hinted to Peter how he would die, Peter looked over at the disciple John and asked, "What about him, Lord?" Jesus replied, "That's none of your business, you follow Me." So the answer that became clear to me in my university years was this: if I really love Jesus Christ, I must follow Him very closely. Imagine a fiancee asking her betrothed, "When we get married, how many other men can I see and how far can I go with them before you divorce me?" We are the bride of Christ, and should never pose such a stupid question! I should not fill my head or trouble my heart with worrying about someone else being hypocritical or denying Christ, or hypothetical cases and trick questions such as "How close can I come to denying the faith before I lose my salvation?" Such a foolish question is similar to a little boy trying to see how close he can come to the edge of a cliff without falling over. Any loving parent will say to a child - "Keep away from the edge of that cliff, stay here by me and hold on to my hand!"
My second metaphor to resolve the free will / predestination dilemma is how computer operating systems work. Any computer operating system worthy of the name reserves for itself a certain set of instructions or commands that control the hardware (random access memory, hard disk, monitor, keyboard, etc.). These are called supervisor-level instructions. All other instructions are available for application programs to use. By this definition MS-DOS, which let application programs control the hardware, was not a real operating system; it was just a file system organizer and program launcher. A real operating system gives application programs a wide range of freedom to do whatever they want to do, except to run reserved instructions. If one tries it, the operating system terminates that application program.
This metaphor illustrates how God grants us a wide range of freedom, from trivial choices such as what color socks to wear today, to more serious choices like what major field to study in university or what profession to select, to most consequential choices such as whether and whom to marry, or whether to believe in Christ. Some decisions have little or no consequences: if I wear a brown sock and a black sock no one may ever notice, and if they do they probably won't care. But if I choose a course of studies that I can't handle or a profession that goes nowhere, I have a real problem. Or if I marry a person who is unfaithful or simply wanted to use me for a ticket to America, it can make my whole life miserable. But if I decide to chase after wine, women or wealth and not entrust my life to Christ, I have forfeited my eternal soul. God's sovereignty trumps human liberty, as the case of Esther illustrates:
Then Mordecai asked them to answer Esther, "Don't think to yourself that you will escape in the king's house any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent now, then relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Who knows if you haven't come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Then Esther asked them to answer Mordecai, "Go, gather together all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day. I and my maidens will also fast the same way. Then I will go in to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:13-16)
God had placed Esther in a position of great status, but she had to make a decision: "Who knows if you haven't come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" If she were to make the wrong decision in order to try saving her own life, Mordecai reminds her: "For if you remain silent now, then relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish." The only right choice she had was to go before the king and plead for mercy, even at the risk of his wrath. Thankfully our heavenly King is not wrathful and arbitrary! If, however, we refuse to do His will, He will bring "relief and deliverance" for perishing sinners, for the widows, orphans, poor, maimed, lame and blind, "from another place" but we will be punished or may even perish for our disobedience.
The third way I resolved this dilemma is as follows: Einstein struggled with a similar dilemma, the nature of light - is it matter, or is it energy? If a scientist sets up an experiment to prove that light is matter, the results of this experiment show that light is indeed matter. Conversely, if a scientist sets up an experiment to prove that light is energy, the results of that experiment show that light is indeed energy. Yet, light obviously can't be two different things at the same time, and it is absurd to imagine that light flip-flops back and forth between being matter and energy. How did Einstein resolve this dilemma? In his theory of relativity, he showed that it depends upon the point of view of the observer. Perhaps a future "Unified Field Theory" will better explain this phenomenon, but for now that is the best theory physicists have arrived at.
To apply this to our dilemma, it depends on the point of view of the observer, in this case, God or humans. From God's point of view (we theorize, because we cannot possibly see things from His viewpoint) He foreknows the end from the beginning because He stands outside of time. And being omnipotent, He is perfectly able to arrange the course of events that to us appear "random" and "by chance" so that they all work together for the good of those He has chosen and loves, His elect. From our point of view, however, we are confronted with moral choices for which we do not know the outcomes, and we must make decisions or else the choice will be lost. Not to decide is to decide. If we put off a decision until it is too late, we have decided by default.
We inherently know that some choices have good consequences and others have bad consequences, so we are aware of the moral nature of our choices. We cannot know any other point of view, being finite creatures located in space and time. We can only imagine God's point of view. We read in Heb. 3:14 - "For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm to the end." Notice the perfect tense of the verb "have become," and then the "if" condition: "if we hold fast? to the end." The paradox here is that an event in the past is conditional upon an event in the future! From God's point of view we already partake of Christ, it's a done deal. But from our point of view it is conditional upon our holding fast to the end.
We have no right to ever say that God is unfair. The true God is not "Yin-Yang," a combination of light and darkness; He is only light with no mixture of darkness (James 1:17; 1 John 1:5). God is righteous when He judges us according to the moral law of human freedom and the responsibility it implies. The Apostle James, very likely the brother of our Lord Jesus, describes this "law of liberty" and makes clear that we will be judged for what we do with what we believe, not just for what we believe. He writes -
So speak, and so do, as men who are to be judged by a law of freedom (eleutheria). For judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him? And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you tells them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled;" and yet you didn't give them the things the body needs, what good is it? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself. (James 2:12-17)
Faith that doesn't work is dead faith, not saving faith. The good works that James describes here and in ch. 1:22-27 are the kind of diakonia that Jesus and His disciples performed, and what they taught the next generation of disciples to do. Thus, a living, saving faith must do diakonia.
The last aspect of freedom I think must be considered here is that of the Christian's freedom and responsibility in human society. Our freedom in Christ doesn't grant us carte-blanche to break the laws of civil society. We have already looked at parts of Rom. 12, which deals with our sanctification and spiritual gifts. But Paul in Rom. 12:14 turns to the topic of the Christian in society, and in Rom. 13:1-7 Paul writes -
Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those who exist are ordained by God. Therefore he who resists the authority, withstands the ordinance of God; and those who withstand will receive to themselves judgment. For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Do you desire to have no fear of the authority? Do that which is good, and you will have praise from the same, for he is a servant of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid, for he doesn't bear the sword in vain; for he is a servant of God, an avenger for wrath to him who does evil. Therefore you need to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For this reason you also pay taxes, for they are servants of God's service, attending continually on this very thing. Give therefore to everyone what you owe: taxes to whom taxes are due; customs to whom customs; respect to whom respect; honor to whom honor.
So in the old USSR, Communist persecutors would taunt Christian leaders with this passage, saying that it commands Christians to obey the higher authorities, therefore they must tell who is attending church or who is bringing Bibles into the country. How would we respond in such a situation? This isn't just a hypothetical question, but rather one that was put to believers in our lifetimes and could well be put to us. I would ask my interrogator - "Do you think Paul's argument is logical and correct?" He must answer "Yes" because he just used Paul's argument on me. Then I would say, "You agree. Good! Then you must also agree that your authority is from God, and you should be God's servant to me for good." The authorities overstep their realm of authority when they rebel against God or do evil. But this does not give Christians an excuse to break traffic laws, not pay taxes, or be disrespectful toward those who deserve our respect.
Let us compare this with 2 Cor. 10:3-6, where St. Paul relates our life in society to our life in the Body of Christ, the church -
For though we walk in the flesh, we don't wage war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience will be made full.
The tools or "weapons" we as Christians should use are spiritual, not fleshly: we use diakonia, persuasive preaching and teaching to tear down false worldviews that have exalted themselves against the existence of God and the idea that we can know God personally. One false worldview is the "democratic" notion that the majority is right. If we examine the idea logically, the only truism about the majority is that it is bigger than the minority, and in fact, the majority is quite often wrong - "You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; neither shall you testify in court to side with a multitude to pervert justice" (Ex. 23:2). Only God is always right.
If humanity were to take a vote on the existence of God and the majority came up with the decision that God doesn't exist, would God be obliged to go out of existence? How absurd! No, "let God be found true, but every man a liar" (Rom. 3:4). If the majority were to vote in favor of euthanasia, would it be right to kill off all the elderly, handicapped and otherwise unproductive people? If the majority of Philistines were to vote for a government run by lunatic murderers who have vowed to eradicate the people of Israel, does the "will of the majority" mean this would be legitimate and right? How foolish! And yet many people buy into this false worldview. When modern democracy is cut off from its Judeo-Christian ethical foundations, it becomes a rudderless ship cast adrift, swerving between anarchy and tyranny, as current events amply demonstrate.
The church ought to expect a higher level of morality from its members than from society in general, and should discipline its members by first correcting them privately, then rebuking them publicly in the congregation, then excluding errant members from ministry, then excluding them from communion, then a full and total exclusion from the Body of Christ. But the church may not use the powers of the state, "the sword," to force its higher morality upon society, nor may the state use the church's sanction of eternal anathemas to secure its secular domain. Otherwise the lines become blurred, the church becomes worldly and the world becomes "churchy," with a pseudo-Christian veneer of propriety over its crass immorality. We shouldn't confuse Christian ethics with society's absence of ethics or with the state's laws and sanctions. If society approves of adultery, abortion, euthanasia, homosexual acts, gluttony or drunkenness, it doesn't mean the church must adopt the same low standards of conduct. "For you, brothers, were called to freedom (eleutheria). Only do not turn your freedom (eleutheria) into an opportunity to gratify your flesh, but through love (agape) make it your habit to serve (douleuo) one another" (Gal. 5:13).
Endnotes to Chapter 12:
6. John Wesley's Explanatory Notes, (www.e-sword.net, 2004).
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Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. Worry's like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but doesn't get you anywhere!
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