Faithful Christians

December 30, 2019

Two Gospels, and the Politics that Flow from Them

Faithful Christians contending for the true gospel, both from external legal and social threat and internal subversion, need to keep constantly in mind the reason for the conflict, and why we are contending. The conflict is about the meaning of the gospel, which is salvation from sin to the glory of God. Against this, the opposing doctrine of our day, advanced externally by social and legal pressure, and internally by theological liberalism, proposes that the true meaning of the gospel is liberation from oppression. Whenever the latter meaning is accepted, the point of following Christ is lost. Freedom can be sought with many justifications, but salvation can only be found in Christ. To the extent that liberation rather than salvation is accepted as the gospel, the task of the orthodox believer defending the Biblical gospel of salvation from sin becomes a hopeless one.

As discussed in an earlier article by this writer, the theological left uses Jesus’ anti-Pharisee polemic to strong advantage to make their point, along with a selective reading of the prophets of Israel. It is true that Jesus denounced the Pharisees, but he denounced them for their hypocrisy, not for their aspiration to obey the law of God as being the righteous rule for life. He did not consider the law of the old covenant to be oppressive, and he (in practice) set aside only its ceremonial aspects, not the moral commands pertaining to our relation to God and man.

Nor were Moses and the prophets focused above all on suffering and oppression. The Bible has much to say about oppression and the unjust use of authority, but it is clear that the cause of oppression is the indulgence of the flesh. Just as the Egyptians benefitted by the oppression of the Hebrews, allowing them “the pleasures of sin,” and the high standard of living it required, so the Israelites in the wilderness wanderings and the promised land were moved by the lust of the eyes and the pride of life to seek gods who would provide what they wanted in life, and personified what they wanted (e.g., rain, sex, fertility). Or they were tempted to magic to get what they wanted (including the practice of human sacrifice, which we again see in our day in the taking of unborn life). Or indeed they were moved to oppress others, violating the law given through Moses, to secure the good life as the Egyptians did. But the call of the prophets was rebuke for indulging the self, a call to self-denial, not a proclamation that people should be free to be their “true selves” (liberated from the authority of the law).

In addition to the charge of hypocrisy, both the older social gospel, the later “liberation theology,” and indeed, people from the ordinary populace of the wider world who don’t like traditional Christian faith and morals, make the closely related charge of self-righteousness. But this too is wrong. It is rather the revolutionaries commonly called “leftists” in our day, with their doctrine of self-actualization (both for the individual and society) from constraining authority who are in fact guilty of self-righteousness. They really advance their own righteousness, i.e., the propriety of their identities and self-established requirements, against whatever stands in the way of what they want. What Christians claim instead is the righteousness of God. We obey Gods commands, although imperfectly, as a result of salvation, not to attain salvation. Faithful Christians are, indeed, the “good people,” advancing the holiness and humility commanded by God, against a world of pride and sin. It is very telling that those who claim “oppressed identities” advance their own pride as a matter of virtue. Biblically, pride is not virtue, but vice. The pride of self-determination does not acknowledge any higher constraining authority. In particular, since it is self-determination, it will not accept correction, and thus will deny sharing in the sin of humanity.

These two theologies, orthodox theology, which is focused on a righteous creator to whom we have a duty overriding all else, and modern theology, growing out of the Enlightenment, which holds God to bless our own self determined life, are the theologies behind today’s political conflict. Conservative politics is ultimately rooted in the Christian past. It may not be specifically Christian, but it seeks to ensure the conditions in which people can do what is manifestly their duty in the created order, and to protect the right of people to obey God as they understand his commands to be. “Liberal,” or better, “liberal/left” politics, striving to ensure self- determination for all, seeks to ensure material well-being for all, and a legal structure in which one can comfortably assign one’s life whatever meaning one wants to give it.

There is no common ground between a gospel which mandates obedience to God and one which holds that God mandates whatever people want. By the grace that God has given us, we choose to obey God rather than men. There can be coincidental agreement with the secular left on a particular issue, but at a basic level, the two gospels are immoral to one another.

But Christians can point out that the ethic of self-determination cannot consistently work. Abortion is a particularly sharp issue, where the self- defined good life of one human being requires the death of another. The advent of transgenderism is another sharp issue, where the virtue of self- defined sex clashes with the virtue of protecting biological women.

The narrow gate may be difficult. It would restrict the joy of sexual union to the monogamous marriage of man and woman, restrict the life of a mother by her duty to care for her child, prohibit the consumption of physically and psychologically harmful substances, and in general discourage or prohibit the culture of sensuality and gratification encouraged by today’s entertainment industry. The Bible holds the narrow gate to be difficult. But pursuing it is everyone’s duty to God, and the way to life.


8 Responses to Two Gospels, and the Politics that Flow from Them

  1. John Kenyon says:

    I ask if you have not set up a false conflict between sin/salvation in Jesus Christ and oppression/liberation in Jesus Christ? Perhaps one, too, between transcendent Christianity and the work of the Church in history (Matthew 25)?

    • Mr. Kenyon,

      Jesus is clear in Lk. 24:44-48 (linked to in the first paragraph) that salvation from sin is the primary meaning of the gospel. Of course, it also says that he is Messiah, and therefore the proclamation of the Kingdom of God is part of the larger gospel. But that is a kingdom, with a king, not a vision we construct. Any claims to oppression must remain within the moral law that God has given in Scripture.

      Rick

      • John Kenyon says:

        I think you avoided my question, Rick. For the record, I’m no liberal. But am asking again whether you are creating an unbiblical tension between sin/salvation and oppression/liberation. Why feed the hungry if the starving are going to heaven anyway according your formula of “salvation”? Why help to dry out the drunk if s/he is going to hell anyway? Why free the slaves if the saved slave is going to heaven? Why heal the sick, if both the sick and healthy are going to hell? Do I understand you correctly.? Bet I do.

  2. William says:

    A most bleak outlook:

    ”To the extent that liberation rather than salvation is accepted as the gospel, the task of the orthodox believer defending the Biblical gospel of salvation from sin becomes a hopeless one”.

  3. Roger says:

    The Gospel is clear. It is 1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 4. This scripture says it is the Gospel and saves. Many Pastors today do not preach Paul. President Francis L. Patton of Princeton Univ., circa 1888 – 1903, said “The only hope of Christianity is in the rehabilitating of the Pauline Theology. It is back, back, back, to an Incarnate Christ and the atoning blood, or it is on, on and on to atheism and despair.” Christ has done everything for our Salvation, except for us to believe it, plus nothing else. This is called Grace. The Law requires you to do some work for your Salvation. Galatians 1: 8 says “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. Romans 2 : 16, In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” Pres. Patton is correct.

  4. Mel says:

    So how best to recognize this liberation gospel? What are the sure indicators in our church and daily communications with others that indicate one is hearing a liberation message vs salvation?

  5. Salvation, justification, forgiveness, and all things comparable are provided us exclusively by God’s grace via the blood-atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Christ. Praise Yahweh! This fact, however, does not mean that Christ abolished His Father’s morality as reflected in His Ten Commandments and their respective statutes and judgments as society’s standard–God forbid!

    These are two different issues entirely. The first has to do with the remnant’s individual salvation, the second with whose ethics God intends for us to govern our lives. As to the latter, it’s quite clear where the Apostles Paul and John stood on the matter, as reflected in the following New Testament passages:

    “…truth [is] in the law.” (Romans 2:20)

    “…by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)

    “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” (Romans 3:31)

    “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” (Romans 7:12)

    “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7)

    “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” (1 Corinthians 7:19)

    “But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.” (1 Timothy 1:8)

    “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” (1 John 2:3)

    “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4)

    “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.” (1 John 5:2)

    “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5:3)

    “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
    (Revelation 12:17)

    For more on how the Bible’s immutable/unchanging moral law (the Ten Commandments and their respective statutes and judgments) applies and should be implemented today as the law of the land) google free online book “Law and Kingdom: Their Relevance Under the New Covenant.”

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