Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Neo-Constantinianism in U.S. churches

Lynn Anderson spoke recently about the "unholy marriage between 'the conservative Christian cause' and American Nationalism, more specifically the right wing view of American economic and political interests":
Such an alliance would have been inconceivable to the early church, which was marginalized by the culture and the state. The early community of faith wielded no economic or political clout. In fact those bands of believers knew that that the powers that be might silence them, crush them, and even kill them. Like most Chinese believers in our day, early believers did not expect Kingdom progress to ride on the wings of government favor. It was illegal to be Christian. Yet the early Christians prayed for the kings and authorities and honored government officials as instruments of God - even when many of those officials were cruel, pagan dictators. Yet, those early believers lived vibrant Christ-honoring lives in authentic communities of holiness, forgiveness and compassion and even though they were powerless and without freedom (as in China today) the Kingdom spread magnificently during those first two centuries.

Amen. In addition to speaking against "neo-Constantinianism," Dr. Anderson also spoke against the sins of consumerism and certainty in the church (HT: Travis Stanley).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, do I understand this correctly? It is OK to be certain about uncertainty, or even uncertain about uncertainty, but never certain about certainty?

Why even be a Christian if everything is all so uncertain?

4:58 PM, March 21, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Anon: are you responding to Lynn Anderson's comments or merely my very brief pointer to them?

6:29 AM, March 22, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do know that there is a main point or points to the article and I probably should have focused on those, but I was picking up some of the side innuendos made on occasion in the article. And they reminded me of what I read and hear so often anymore that implies the main doctrine of Christianity has become the Doctrine of Doubt. Those who don't doubt as much as others are called "arrogant". That is something that is really, really, really bothering me these days. And I let that rule my thoughts on this occasion.

But, regarding another point in the article, I do see people who instantly become animated, ready with an answer to anyone who "disrespects" their political candidate or view. (Do I do this myself?) They (we?) seem to equate being a "good American" with being a Christian. As a side note, I've also noticed that when anyone disrespects God (in entertainment, as one example) they just sit back with a slight yawn and seem to say, "Oh, well ... you gotta have entertainment."

I first responded when I was very tired last night and now I'm writing when I'm very rushed. So it will probably end with the same bad result. Sorry!!!

8:10 AM, March 22, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I am a fairly new believer who has been reading here for a few months. I have been struggling with this certainty idea quite a bit. Maybe it is a maturity thing, and I am just not there yet. I have a hard time being 'certain' about anything. Who am I to question the people who have been studying the Bible for years, where I have only just started? But of the people who have studied for years, there is still so much disagreement. How do you decide who is right? It's making me a little crazy. Actaully, it is making me a lot crazy! Do I keep studying the Bible and praying and come to my own answers?? Well, if we all get to come up with our own answers - that doesn't seem right either. So how do you know that you are following the 'right' thing??? Argh.

10:25 AM, March 22, 2006  
Blogger Jim Martin said...

Thanks for the link to Lynn's article. I thought it was very good and very timely.

1:11 PM, March 22, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Anon: I am gratuful for your questions and concerns. I'll try to respond as best and as briefly as I can.

There are a few things--a list, you might say--of beliefs Christians should be certain about. The more I grow in Christ, the shorter that list is, but the more vital those few points are. God gave us minds to think, but unfortunately the best human wisdom leads only to confusion and despair when it comes to a true knowledge of God (See, for example, 1 Cor. 2 and Col. 2). Paul faced this issue in Corinth, and he finally said simply "I decided to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul settled on this profession as a solution to the doctrinal divisions among the Corinthians. In short, if they could remember Jesus Christ (Lord, Savior, High Priest) and him crucified (to bring us the forgiveness, purity, and power we could never gain for ourselves) then their hearts and minds would be unified. The same is true for us today. That's why we are called to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus (Mk. 8:34). We must repent of our sins and keep our eyes on Christ the center of our faith (Heb. 12:1-3), not on the doctrines that divide us.

I can't speak for Dr. Anderson, but I know the spiritual tradition from which he comes. That tradition has suffered since the early 20th century in some quarters with an arrogant certainty that puffs up the self at the expense of those who see things differently--often on the most peripheral of issues. In that context, certainty on non-essentials needs to give way to humility. I think Dr. Anderson would agree with me that on matters central to the gospel, certainty is a good thing.

In this blog, I avoid peripheral issues that have about 1% of the importance for discipleship but are the focus of about 99% of arguments within the church. If we all could remember--deep in our hearts--Jesus Christ and him crucified, the church would be much more like God intends. Of that I am certain.

11:21 PM, March 22, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Milton - thanks for the reply. I'm learning every day. Keeping it simple seems the best thing for me right now. Stick with the basics and keep reading the Bible and praying. Hey - if I guess there is something I'm cerain about too. . . .

OK - so when I get muddled and confused by all the opinions out there, I just come back to the cross and start again. . . . sound about right??

9:48 AM, March 23, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Anon: It sure does.

1:21 PM, March 23, 2006  

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