“‘Sentimentality,’ by definition, is an outpouring of false emotion—for sentimental people do not feel much genuine emotion, wallowing in substitutes. (‘You’re a wonderful audience; I love you all.’)” [Richard Grenier, Capturing The Culture (Washington, DC: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1991), p. 313].
“A worldview is like a cheap sweater (or a good sweater too, for that matter). If you pull on a loose strand on your left arm, it is not long before your right arm begins to unravel. Everything is connected. Pedagogy is connected to theology, which is connected to worship, which is connected to politics, and so on” (The Case for Classical Christian Schools, pp. 87-88).
Another election is approaching in the fall. Many Christians are distressed at the condition of the country, and they are equally distressed over the choices they have in elections. While it is never appropriate to use a Christian pulpit as a partisan platform, it is equally unacceptable for Christians to be left without biblical direction as they seek to honor God in their calling as citizens. So as you seek to serve Christ in your voting, remember the principles as you employ the method of casting a ballot. Some of the key principles are below.
We must never forget the sovereignty of God. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Prov. 21:1). The ruler of our nation is not the people, not the Congress, not the president, not the Supreme Court. The ruler of our nation is the Lord Jesus Christ. We are in His hand; we are under His scepter. The issue is not whether we will as a nation “make Jesus Lord,” but whether His Lordship will be for our blessing or our undoing. Remember the counsel given in the second Psalm. The kings of the earth, our rulers included, are exhorted to kiss the Son, lest He be angry (Ps. 2:10-12). The sovereignty of God over our political affairs means that we may have only one of two attitudes. We may rejoice as we consider how He will bring all His purposes to pass, or we may lament as we confess our own sins. Excluded is the option of being self-righteously indignant about “those scoundrels in Washington,” or worried about whether God will wake up in time to save our country. Christ is not as powerless as the Baal taunted by Elijah. Principle # 1: Jesus Christ is King of kings.
There is never any neutrality anywhere. “. . . so it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes . . .” (Dt. 17:18-19). “Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You? They gather together against the life of the righteous, and condemn innocent blood” (Ps. 94:20-21). The fact we hold to a distinction and governmental separation between church and state (and we do hold to it) does not mean that we insist upon a separation of morality and state. And if we refuse to separate morality and state, then we must affirm the only source of all righteous law—the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Principle # 2: Religiously neutral law cannot govern the realm of politics.
Jesus teaches us to love our enemies. But in the realm of politics, there is a sense in which we must respect our enemies. The authorities which exist have been established by God. Those who kick against them, kick against God (Rom. 13:1-7). Political or moral opposition does not bring with it the option of lifting our hand against the Lord’s anointed. Neither may we use our tongues against them in a way which blasphemes. The way some Christians have spoken of the president is monstrous—they have taunted him far too much and resisted him far too little. Clearly, opposition or resistance to lawlessness in political office is allowed and required. John the Baptist rebuked Herod, and David resisted Saul. But do not rail against those whom you must oppose. Principle # 3: Fight like a Christian.
Christians need to be encouraged to vote their conscience. For many years, Christians have been holding their noses, and voting for the lesser of two evils. But as this pattern continues, today’s lesser of two evils somehow turns out to be far worse than the worst option of twenty years ago. It is not my position to endorse anyone here, or urge you to vote for a particular candidate. But it is appropriate for me to say that you should vote for those who fear the Lord. This is not a requirement that you find someone who is not a sinner. “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens” (Ex. 18:21). Principle # 4: If you vote for political disobedience, don’t complain when you get it.
And of course, Congress is not the light of the world. Neither is Congress the salt of the earth. The reason our culture is falling apart is because the salt—the Church—has lost its savor (Matt. 5:13-16). When this happens the Church is trampled on by men, which is how our Lord wants it. The reformation of our culture cannot happen with the Church in its current condition. Think for a moment. Former-president Clinton is a Christian brother. Having said this, let us pause so that some of you may seek to resume your breathing. He is a member in good standing in the most conservative large denomination of our country. How can we complain about cultural and political corruption when we tolerate and even praise doctrinal and moral corruption within the Church? Principle # 5: Political answers are never political.
When we come to this Table, we do not believe (with some) that Jesus Christ is locally present in the elements in a crude physical way, or that the bread and the wine have been in any way transformed into something else. The physical body of Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God the Father, where He has been exalted, and where He will remain until all His enemies have been made His footstool.
But we do believe that we are being transformed into something else, and what that is would be the perfect man, the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. For we are His body, flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bones. And when we gather around His Table in worship, He does not descend to turn Himself into bread. Rather, we ascend into the heavenly places to be turned into Him. Do not worry: this heavenly Table is a large heavenly one where every saint can gather around it, with room to spare.
We are nourished in this meal by faith alone. And by faith alone we are made glorious partakers of the humanity of Jesus Christ, and are being knit together as His perfect bride.
So this meal is far more than a mere reminder. It is designed to make you think of the cross and resurrection, of course, but it goes far beyond a mere mental recollection. This is the focal point of your fellowship with Him, the koinonia that all saints share in Jesus Christ. You are united with Him at all times, and with one another at all times, but in this meal that koinonia is renewed, strengthened, and grown up into God’s larger and more glorious purpose. The presence of the Lord Jesus with us here is no static thing—He is dealing with us, changing us, renewing us, growing us up to maturity. Turn to Him in faith as He does so.
An unholy church is an oxymoron. God has called us to holiness. He has called us first to a perfect holiness, that which is imputed to us for the sake of Jesus His Son. In this sense, our baptism cannot be improved, and we stand before God as His redeemed people, and we shall sing His praises forever and ever.
But God never justifies without also doing a profound work of sanctification. And if the holiness of sanctification is not there, then we have grounds for questioning if the imputed holiness of justification is. This does not make our justification dependent upon our sanctification. But it does make our knowledge of justification dependent upon the work of sanctification – the kind of holiness your neighbor can see, the kind of holiness your wife can see, and your children.
And so I say again that an unholy church is a flat contradiction, and those who seek to embrace such contradictions shall soon find their lampstand removed. God has begun the work of cleansing His church in this nation. Because of our hardheartedness, the process looks to be thoroughly unpleasant. Turn to Him now, and seek His face. Offer up your heart, your marriage, your household to Him, do it now, and ask Him to uproot every unholy thing.
We have seen that a worldview consists of four basic elements—catechesis, lifestyle, symbol/liturgy, and narrative. We need to consider each of these in turn, and see the necessity of the right connection of each to the grace of God.
“But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:8-10).
Christians are inescapably logocentric. Christ Himself is the Word of God, and we learned about Him from the words of His messengers. The word of faith is preached (v. 8), and it is heard by the listeners. Those listening have the word near them—in their hearts and in their mouths. That which was in the mouth of the preacher is now in the mouth of the convert. It is in the mouth of the convert because it is in the heart of the convert, and it is there because it is in the heart of the preacher. Now what St. Paul urges here is confession and faith. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (v. 9) and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead (v. 9), you will be saved. Now these truths overlap and indwell one another; we are not supposed to put them end to end. That means that you also have to believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, and confess with your mouth that God raised Him from the death. The apostle shows that there is a close bond between the thoughts of the heart and the confession of the mouth. The two can be separated, but only because of sin. When a man is whole, his heart and his mouth speak the same propositional truths.
Basic Christian Confession:
In the early years of the Church, assaults against the truth came in the form of various denials of the confession outlined above. In response to this, the Church faithfully confessed the truth. These basic confessions are still in use today; they are the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon. What was the point of these confessions? They were, respectively, confessions of the rooted historical nature of the gospel, the fact that Jesus is God, and that Jesus fully man and fully God. I say that this is basic Christian confession because these creeds draw the line separating true Christians from heretics.
Mature Christian Confession:
As the Church grew and matured over time, the result was a refined and increasingly mature understanding of many issues contained within Scripture. The Bible talks about a lot of things, and not all of them are about the battle between faith and unbelief. As a result, many reformational confessions addressed issues which separate Christians from Christians. The 39 Articles are held by the historic Anglicans; the Three Forms of Unity are held by the Continental Reformed; the Westminster Confession is held by Reformed Christians in the English-speaking world; the Augsburg Confession is held by Lutherans, etc. This is not to say that the distinctives set forth in one or more of these confessions are unimportant; they are frequently very important. But the differences between the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession are not heaven/hell important. They are wet baby/dry baby important. The original point of confessions was to distinguish the Church from the world. The Reformation era brought us to the point where they began to be used to distinguish one part of the Church from another part of the Church.
Immature Use of Mature Confession:
At the beginning, the impulse was the same as it had been in the early Church, which was to distinguish the truth from heresy—this was the point of the Protesting Catholics setting forth their testimony and confession over against the Roman Catholics. But it was not long before the sidelong glances began. That which would justify Westminster against Trent does not justify Westminster against Augsburg. The former is in the spirit of the early Church; the latter can turn into mere factionalism or sectarianism. These are “our distinctives. We are theonomic, postmillennial, presuppositional, liturgical and . . .” But distinctives to separate from people that Christ has not separated from is illegitimate. Distinctives offered in charity will be how the Church matures and grows. Distinctives offered with pride and contempt will have the opposite effect.
Heart and Mouth:
Returning to our text, we should see that in Paul’s mind, the heart and mouth speak with one voice. When this occurs, salvation occurs. When this occurs, to return to our illustration of the wheel, there is no break between the axle and the spoke of what is affirmed with the mouth. When someone affirms with the mouth what he denies in the heart, the wheel is broken. That denial might be simple hypocrisy, seen when someone joins a church simply because of the business contacts he thinks he will find there, or perhaps to “meet girls.” Or the denial might be a convoluted and theologically sophisticated hypocrisy, seen in much liberal and postmodern thought. “What does it mean to affirm, exactly? And are we assuming too much about referentiality? And isn’t it more important that people preach that Christ rose from the dead than to affirm a crude and fundamentalist kind of way that He actually did?”
The Gift of God:
The use of propositions to confess our faith is absolutely essential. And the fact that we confess something with our mouth (and that doing so is essential to salvation) means that we do presuppose certain things about language. Language is a trustworthy gift from a trustworthy God; it is not an evolutionary by-product. Adam was created speaking. Our toddlers are born as naming creatures, and they grow up into it. This is also the grace of God.
Now what should we do with grace? What are we to do with a gift? We are to simply receive it, with gratitude. We are not to over-analyze it. We are not to over-engineer it. We must not become victims of a false analogy. It is wrong-headed to say that “we build telescopes, but cannot see God. We build listening devices, but cannot hear God. And we invent languages, but cannot to with or about God . . .” It is false to say that we invented the idea of propositions; they are the sheer grace of God—whether we want to say the magazine is on the end table or Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth.
“Now is it more just and safe that the strong should condecend to the weak, because that is within their reach, than that the weak should be driven up to the strong, which were to overdrive them” (Durham, p. 35).
“Low-cast Hindus, in short, suffered humiliations in their native India compared to which the carrying of identity cards in South Africa was almost trivial. In fact, Gandhi, to his credit, was to campaign strenuously in his later life for the reduction of caste barriers in India—a campaign almost invisible in the movie, of course, conveyed in only two glancing references, leaving the audience with the officially sponsored if historically astonishing notion that racism was introduced into India by the British. To present the Gandhi of 1893, a conventional caste Hindu, fresh from caste-ridden India where a Paraiyan could pollute at sixty-four feet, as the champion of interracial equalitarianism is one of the most brazen hypocrisies I have ever encountered in a serious movie.” [Richard Grenier, Capturing The Culture (Washington, DC: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1991), pp. 106-107].