After fighting in Korea and two world wars, General Douglas MacArthur concluded the problem—and solution—was theological: “We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem is basically theological….” (Reminiscences, p. 276).
I’m writing this article as a constructive critique of evangelical Christianity in hopes of laying out the problem and solution from a theological perspective—theological being the perspective from which Christians should be looking at all of life, including the Armageddon we are now facing. It is not a critique of churches so-called which deny the basics of the faith (e.g., the divinity of Christ, His atoning death, and the need for individuals to be born again through faith in Jesus Christ) as I don’t even consider them to be churches; it is a critique of churches which (commendably) hold to those basics but have limited the gospel to just the message of personal salvation and allowed the Whore of Babylon to take over the country and the globe. The institution—the church—which is supposed to be the moral compass and authority for a country is (with rare individual church exceptions) ignorant of its responsibilities and duties in regard to civil affairs or afraid to fulfill those duties.
The criminal syndicate known in the Bible as the Whore of Babylon, satanically driven and operating globally, now feels itself to be so powerful that it doesn’t even try to hide its crimes. I’m not going to write anymore about that here as you can be well informed on the subject by following independent news sites such as the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity and Greg Hunter’s USA Watchdog which are doing an excellent job of reporting on its machinations. Rather I’m going to write about why the church has failed its responsibilities in civic affairs and allowed the criminal takeover, and what can be done to fix things.
Dualism—the false separation of the spiritual from the material—leads many churches to teach implicitly if not explicitly that the spiritual is all that matters and civil affairs, which they believe lie mostly or entirely in the material realm, are of no relevance to the Christian. Throughout the twentieth century many evangelical pastors cited the nonsensical dictum “Don’t mix politics and religion” as some sort of profound wisdom. Life is religious and political. You can’t not mix politics and religion. Politics is religious and religion is political. It’s not a question of whether a person or organization is going to do politics and religion; the question is whether they’re going to do good (Christian) politics and religion—or bad politics and religion. Jesus always emphasized that the spiritual was the most important but he healed the sick and fed the hungry because we’re embodied spiritual (hylomorphic) beings and the body and material creation is important also. Genuine Christianity is about community—with God and neighbor—but dualism leads to a hyper-individualistic and privatized faith with little or no concern for the common good. Christianity is about community and community is political.
The senior salaried pastor as the one-man-in-charge/all-knowing-expert-in-church-matters structure of many evangelical churches is another impediment to Christian civic responsibility. Politics can be messy and involvement requires substantial knowledge of history (which many pastors lack) as well as sound theology (also lacking in some cases). Limiting the role of pastoral ministry to primarily just one man and the hermetically sealed spiritual sphere makes that man’s job easier and more secure. As a result, many evangelical pastors are very content to maintain an effective episcopalian structure and their status as a mini-pope; they may give lip-service to civic responsibility on the Fourth of July and at election time, but will block any attempt by someone else in the church to teach and preach civic responsibility as such activity could jeopardize their image of the all-knowing-expert. But in defense of many pastors in this situation, the one-man-in-charge role is what they were trained and hired for and what most of their parishioners expect and want; many people like the arrangement because it relieves them of any responsibility in the church. So the blame for the lack of civics teaching and preaching lies as much with the seminaries and people in the pews as with the pastor.
Some pastors may use the church’s 501c3 status (which a church should not be under though the vast majority are) as an excuse not to discuss civic responsibilities but that is not a valid excuse because 501c3 requirements do not prohibit teaching and preaching civic responsibility (as long as specific candidates are not promoted or demoted); I stand by that declaration though I’m well aware that government bureaucracies interpret regulations anyway they want to interpret them. To add to the problem, there exists a conflict of interest with the 501c3 issue because a 501c3 church allows pastors substantial tax advantages (e.g. a housing allowance which is untaxed). While the 501c3 issue is a concern, in the end it is not the major problem. If Christians do not take their civic responsibilities seriously, it doesn’t matter what laws and regulations are or are not on the books—the antichrist tyranny will shut down the churches.
Adding to the problems of dualism, 501c3, etc. is the futurism taught by dispensationalists. Dispensationalism is an unbiblical “systematic” theology hatched in the early nineteenth century by Englishman John Darby (probably with some assistance by another Englishman, Edward Irving). Science was rapidly gaining idol status at the time and Darby, convinced of his own genius, determined to construct a “scientific” theology which could predict the timing of future events that even Jesus couldn’t predict. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Mat 24:36). This futurism produced a fatalistic and defeatist mindset in many evangelicals and consequently a vacating of the public square. Charles Haddon Spurgeon refuted this false teaching, but unfortunately it spread rapidly and widely in American fundamentalist circles, thanks to the efforts of promoters such as C. I. Scofield in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and Tim LaHaye in the latter part of the twentieth century; and the negative political and religious consequences for the US—and the world—cannot be overstated. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:22). Compounding the problem of the dispensationalists’ penchant for predicting the future is their belief in premillennialism. Premillennialism is the belief that Christ’s second advent will precede a thousand-year period of great prosperity and peace in which Christ will reign incarnate on earth in time—prior to the end of time. This belief fosters a deterministic mindset which deters Christians of that persuasion from engaging in political action because they believe it is preordained to happen regardless of human action and therefore there is no need for the latter. And to make matters worse, dispensational premillennialists teach not just that things won’t get better until Christ returns—they teach that things are bound to get worse and worse until Christ returns—and so working to make the world a better place in this age is a complete waste of time. And this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (“all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”). Millennialism is based on just a few isolated passages of scripture (e.g., Isaiah 65 and Revelation 20) which cannot be interpreted in the literal sense that millennialists do and remain consonant with the overall teaching of scripture. The Bible is God’s word and all of it true and infallible from Genesis through Revelation. While much of it is literal (Christ is divine, walked on the water, raised the dead and rose from the dead himself, and is the way, the truth and the life), some parts are figurative (e.g., Jesus was the lamb of God, the bright and morning star, etc., and much of Revelation). In accordance with Augustinian hermeneutics, if interpreting a portion of scripture literally conflicts with the overall clear teaching of scripture or leads to ungodly living, then it must be interpreted figuratively. The premillennialism and futurism of dispensationalism are deterrents to Christian political action and the resulting absence of Christianity in the public square has allowed the proliferation of crime, including the murder of millions of unborn babies to cite just one example. Allowing that to happen is not godly living.
Eschatology for practical purposes is summed up in the following passages: Deuteronomy 28 (obey and be blessed—disobey and be cursed); “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27); “They shall not labor in vain….” (Isa 65:23); “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Mat 6:34); “…give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of the Lord in vain” (Pro 30:8-9); “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7). “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end…upon his kingdom…to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isa 9:7). Obey and be blessed, disobey and be cursed—pretty straightforward. Judgment Day: everyone has to answer for everything they said or did that they shouldn’t have, and everything they didn’t say or do that they should have—again, pretty straightforward. God promises that our efforts to do good will not be in vain; we shall have rewards in eternity if not in time also. Evil exists because man has some free will and God will allow however much evil and trials we need—either to hang ourselves or develop our character and faith. Our job as humans is to resist evil and do good. One of the arguments against millennialism is ontological in nature: God develops our character with testings and trials; in a near sinless environment of peace and prosperity in time we might not develop the faith and character that God desires in us. The best course for most of us is the middle road counseled by David: enough trials and tribulation to develop our faith and trust in God but not so much distress and calamity so as to make us give up all hope and lose our faith. Evil can be defeated if we submit to God and resist the devil. “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end…” God assures us of victory through judgment and justice.
In the latter part of the twentieth century, more and more American evangelicals began enrolling their children in home schooling or private Christian schools to protect them from the public schools whose two main goals are brainwashing and providing a training ground for bullies. And while some evangelicals became interested in politics, collectively they forgot that opting out of a corrupted public education system and starting their own schools (good and positive steps) will not in the long run protect children from the antichrist system—unless civil government is made Christian. Reforming education will not protect your children’s future unless civil government as well as education and every other sphere of life is brought under Christ’s lordship.
In 1978, over 900 Americans (including hundreds of children) who had followed the People’s Temple cult leader Jim Jones to Guyana, committed mass suicide and murder. How many committed suicide and how many were murdered is unknown. They drank kool aid laced with cyanide. Why did they follow him in the first place? They were drinking his mind-poisoning kool aid for years before finally consuming the body poisoning kool aid. What is the difference between millions of professing American Christians and the Peoples Temple members? The former haven’t gone to Guyana; they’re just acquiescing to mass suicide and murder right here at home. They’ve been drinking the poisoned kool aid of dispensationalism and other toxic heresies such as the supralapsarianism of Calvinism. Calvin contradicts himself in The Institutes of the Christian Religion, insisting on supralapsarianism (double predestination in which God predestines some to heaven and others to hell before the fall and before either have been born or done good or evil) but asserting that anyone who goes to hell is there by his own fault (correct on the latter point but not the former). Double predestination makes God to be some kind of monster that creates some beings for the sole purpose of torturing them forever—but this not the God of the Bible who is just as well as loving and merciful. Calvin presumed he’d solved the unsolvable mystery of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will—and wrote that anyone who disagreed with his double predestination was arrogant and blasphemous. But to his credit, errant supralapsarianism notwithstanding, Calvin was a very dedicated pastor in Geneva, refuted the heresy of millennialism, and created a model Christian society in which church and civil government worked in tandem for the advancement of God’s kingdom.
As with most human organizations, churches are mixed bags, and I would be remiss not to give credit where credit is due. Despite being the main harbor of the dispensational heresy, evangelical Christendom has done a superb job of getting out the message that “ye must be born again” and the majority of its adherent are very sincere Christians. And Calvinism, which includes many evangelicals, has borne some very good fruit also (e.g., Abraham Kuyper and his legacy). However, ideas have consequences and the consequences of false teaching in the church are tragic. Both dispensationalists and Calvinists have done a superb marketing job—very good when they’re on target but equally bad when off target. Calvinism is marketed by its adherents as the penultimate systematic theology—a systematic theology which has God wrapped up tightly in a box and is subscribed to by all serious Christians except those lacking the “superior” mental capacity of a Calvinist. The dispensationalists have marketed their theology as a superior product also: one in which “brilliant” minds have plumbed the depths of scripture to unlock the secrets of the future (very appealing to those with itching ears—2 Tim 4:3). Hopefully, evangelicals and Calvinists will be reformed and reforming—continuing with their basic doctrines which are sound, and developing the implications thereof—and eliminating any unbiblical teaching.
At the turn of the twentieth century, fundamentalists published The Fundamentals in a valiant and commendable effort to thwart the modernism creeping into the churches, an effort not without some good results as it provided a bulwark against modernism; unfortunately, they simultaneously threw the baby out with the bath water. In an effort to separate themselves from the modernists and their futile endeavor to materially improve the world without Christ and the spiritual dimension, the fundamentalists abandoned all material concerns of life and retreated into an artificial purely spiritual realm. Not coincidentally, the twentieth century became the most murderous century in history.
Subsequently, throughout the twentieth century, while their country was slowly collapsing, dispensational pastors split time arguing over the meaningless issues of the identity of the antichrist and the timing of Christ’s premillennial return and whether the concurrent rapture would be pre, mid, or post in regard to their predicted future seven-year tribulation (unaware the subject tribulation described in Matthew chapter 24 happened almost 2000 years ago, circa 70 AD). Most promoted the pre-tribulation return as that was more comforting and therefore more popular amongst their parishioners, although not much comfort to people in other parts of the world who were already undergoing severe tribulation. A number of dispensational missionaries in pre-communist (prior to 1949) China taught the pre-tribulation rapture to Chinese believers and were subsequently expelled from China when the communists gained control. Years later, when the same missionaries were allowed to return, those dismayed Chinese believers told the missionaries in so many words: “You taught us we’d be raptured before the tribulation. When you left we thought you’d been raptured and we were left behind. Then we underwent terrible tribulation. And now you’re back! You’re teaching was false. We don’t need you.” Those Chinese believers kept the faith but not the false teachers. That is not to say those missionaries were not genuine Christians; but they’d wrongly assumed the dispensational falsehoods they’d been taught were true and passed them on to their Chinese converts. Those missionaries were no doubt shocked to hear they weren’t needed; one can’t help but wonder if they subsequently ever reconsidered their eschatology. Will it dawn on dispensational pastors promulgating this same false teaching in the twenty-first century that they and their children could be facing some very serious tribulation (just not that predicted in Matthew 24) due to their failure to teach Christians their civic responsibilities?
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…. (Mat 28:19-20, NKJV). Most evangelicals limit the Gospel and The Great Commission to just individual salvation but Jesus has commissioned us to make disciples of the nations—not just individuals. We are to work to make the nations Christian, bringing the civil affairs and entire social order of all nations under God and His Word. “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev 5:10 KJV). It is the duty of every individual Christian to be a good citizen—informed and responsible. “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Pro 29:18). The necessary vision is the kingdom of God and notice the connection with justice. “Jesus came…preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mar 1:14)—not just the gospel of personal salvation. Christians who limit the gospel to just personal salvation do not have the vision to preserve their liberty, which requires justice—God’s moral law.
The Greek New Testament word for the church is ecclesia—a called assembly of senators—in other words a political body. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines politics as: “The science of government; that part of ethics which consists in the regulation and government of a nation or state, for the preservation of its safety, peace and prosperity; comprehending the defense of its existence and rights against foreign control or conquest, the augmentation of its strength and resources, and the protection of its citizens in their rights, with the preservation and improvement of their morals. Politics, as a science or an art, is a subject of vast extent and importance.” The Bible states the most important role of civil government: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil…the minister of God to thee for good…a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Rom 13:3-4). Obviously, civil government must be staffed by righteous people to function as God intends. Civil government, which should be Christian and working in tandem with the church—not against it, is the most powerful human institution (after a properly functioning church) and can and should be used for good according to God’s Word—but it can be used for evil if commandeered by criminals. In the latter case it becomes a terror to the innocent as the criminals use its power to protect themselves as they plunder and pillage the law-abiding citizens. Many pastors, having retreated into the safety and comfort of the hermetically sealed artificial realm of the purely spiritual, fail to notice the importance of Christian civil government and the responsibility of Christians to maintain it, and the parishioners, who look to the pastor as the expert in human affairs, assume the subject is not important because he never addresses it.
In the midst of the distractions and pressures of modern life Christians can easily forget the telos—the final cause and purpose. We are created by and for God in Christ—to ascend to and become friends with God; to love God with all our heart, soul and mind—and our neighbor as ourselves; to be in community—politically involved and building God’s kingdom. The Bible is our owner’s manual—it tells how to operate and fix every aspect of our lives: interpersonal, communal, economic, legal—material and spiritual. “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Mat 4:4). But those Christians who have restricted God’s word to the private sphere and allowed it to be ignored if not actually banned in the public square, are now wondering why the country is figuratively going to hell (except of course for the dispensationalists who “know” that things are supposed to get worse and worse). “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added to you” (Mat 6:33). “He who does not love justice shall not see eternal life” (Augustine). Christians are decrying their loss of liberty but have forgotten that you can’t have liberty without justice and justice cannot be maintained without an informed and responsible citizenry. We American Christians need to recognize that we’re under God’s righteous judgment because of our self-justification and self-worshipping idolatry, and repent and seek God’s righteousness (justice). “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (II Chron 7:14). God can fix things, but we have to do our part.
The simple corollary of the commandments to love God and neighbor is to do good—do what you can to make the world a better place in the direction of the perfect place of heaven in eternity—not to seek the forbidden knowledge of the timing of future events but to work for the advancement of God’s kingdom in time as well as for eternity.
The problems currently facing America and the world are insoluble apart from God’s prescription in II Chronicles 7:14. God uses individuals, but usually through the church, and the solution must come through the church, specifically the local church. There must be regular meetings to instruct parishioners in civic responsibility and to address civil government as well as church concerns as in Calvin’s Geneva. This should be included in Sunday morning services as well as in other assemblies, but if it’s not doable in the Sunday morning service in some churches, then it needs to be done at least in Sunday school classes and/or weekly meetings. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge….” (Hos 4:6).
“All politics is local” (Tip O’Neil, Speaker of the House, 1977-1987). The big alligators in Washington and the state capitals are spawned locally and work their way up the food chain; the local swamps have to be drained if we don’t want alligators at the state and national level. The metabolic theory of cancer posits a defective cellular (local) metabolism as the main cause of cancer and that if proper cell metabolism can be maintained, most cancer can be prevented. Otherwise the cancer is likely to become malignant and metastatic. “…judgment must begin at the house of God” (I Pet 4:17). The cancer of sin has to be dealt with locally through church discipline; if it isn’t dealt with at the local church level it spreads and becomes an uncontrollable malignancy.
Heads of organized crime walk around today in broad daylight and dine at the finest restaurants. Where are the police and judges? Not sure about the US but in Canada they’re too busy arresting and prosecuting pastors to deal with the organized criminals. “Every institution in which men are not unceasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt” (Martin Luther). Maintaining law and order in a community requires the participation of all citizens and that is why all the citizens of ancient Israel were commanded to participate (by stoning) in the execution of parties guilty of a capital crime. If all citizens are involved in the administration of justice, habitual criminals and organized crime cannot survive. Criminals not only survive today, but thrive because too many paid “professionals”—police, politicians and judges—are taking bribes to look the other way.
The adage “You can’t beat city hall” may be generally true for individuals but it’s not true for the people. The people of Jesus’ time beat city hall numerous times because city hall feared them. They didn’t fear them because they were afraid the people would march in protest or petition for a recall vote; they feared them because they knew the people would kill them if they laid hands on Jesus. They “feared the people” (Mar 11:32, Mar 12:12, Lu 20:19, Lu 22:2); “for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned” (Acts 5:26). Christians can win if they work together—as the church body. And then we won’t need to worry about beating city hall as it will be staffed by Christians working in tandem with the church to advance the Kingdom of God.
So what can you do as an individual? Continue to educate yourself, support good candidates for office or run for office yourself. But above all work to start a Sunday school class at your church or help someone else start one which will educate parishioners about Christian citizenship. If you can’t get a Sunday school class started, try a Bible study. A Sunday school class is my first choice because many people either don’t have the time for a mid-week Bible study or just aren’t inclined to take the time—but most people can and will leave for church an hour earlier if there’s a Sunday school class in which they see value. If you can’t get any men interested, talk to some of the women (especially wives of elders) and explain that their children’s future is at stake. Women can influence their husbands. The problems we face are humanly insoluble and can only be fixed if we are willing instruments in God’s hands.
The biggest problem you’re most likely to face in trying to get a Sunday School class about civic responsibility started is getting past the pastor. I wish I didn’t have to write about the problem but it has to be addressed. With rare exceptions, the leaders (pastors) of the institution (the church) which should and could have prevented the moral, social and economic collapse we’re facing by preaching the full counsel of God, instead have limited their preaching to a truncated gospel (just the message of personal salvation and devotions); and people are dying and lives are being destroyed as a result. The predicament for anyone attempting to start a Sunday school class to teach what the pastor should have been teaching and preaching all along is that some of the thinking parishioners might start asking questions like “Why hasn’t the pastor been teaching these things all along?” and the pastor does not want that—with the ensuing implications—to happen. Get to know as many of the elders as possible and see if they’re receptive to the idea of your Sunday school class. Meet with the pastor privately to assure him that you won’t be doing anything to jeopardize the church’s 501c3 status, share your concerns about the direction the country is taking, and try to bring him on board. If he refuses to allow the class, your best option is to find another church (assuming that is feasible for you) that is open to hosting such a class. Your best chances to start such a class are in more reformed and non-dispensational independent churches as most dispensational pastors will block that type of class. I’m not charismatic but if you’re comfortable with that genre, some charismatic churches may be receptive to the idea. Regardless of your approach, the biggest keys to success will be connecting with people, doing things in a spirit of Christian love, and prayer.
We’re in a cosmic tug-of-war between good and evil. If enough people grab the rope and pull for the good whenever and wherever they get a chance, trusting God for the victory, it can be won. “And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten (righteous) shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake” (Gen 18:32). The population of ancient Sodom is unknown and it may take more than ten righteous to save America but whatever it is, be one of that number.
The Foundation for American Christian Education has some excellent resources for teaching America’s Christian history, and my website investingforeternity.com has a power point presentation on the Home Page which can be used as a springboard for discussion in a Sunday school class or Bible study.
“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21) “and pray always” (Lu 21:36).
Donald Krumm is the editor of Investing for Eternity.
Copyright Investing for Eternity