Archive for the ‘Christians’ Tag

Biblical Anarchy 2   3 comments

LELA: Becky Akers and I continue our conversation on anarchy and Christianity. See earlier installments on the Conversation with an Anarchist page.

BECKY: Hello again, Lela. We parted last time on a question that had long puzzled me: how to reconcile Romans 13 and I Peter 2:13-17 with the rest of the Bible. Those two passages seem to extol government and urge not only our compliance but our enthusiastic support. Yet a myriad of other verses condemn the State’s wickedness, as we saw last week.

LELA: Thanks for coming back, Becky. I’m definitely stumped by the apparent contradiction. As a Baptist, I find my church tries very hard to take the entire Bible into context. I know a couple of pastors who are cool in their attitude toward government and/or military conflict, but most Baptists are straight up statists who consider me a radical for advocating for state secession and federalization and they base that stance on those two verses. How do you resolve it?

BECKY: Yep, the apparent contradiction between those verses and other passages, such as Judges 9, I Samuel 8, Psalm 2, etc., troubled me greatly. So did the silliness of asserting that “rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.” [Romans 13:3] This is obviously untrue of any and all political governments: even a cursory examination of history shows the diametrical opposite, let alone our own experiences with politicians and bureaucrats. Meanwhile, Christians are worse than fools to believe or to preach such lunacy. So how could God, writing through Paul, allege such an absurdity?

LELA: Especially since Nero was emperor of Rome at the time. It would seem patently obvious that Christians had a great deal to fear from him even if they were doing good.

BECKY: Especially if they were doing good! Well, Lela, I searched long and hard for an explanation. I read a great many commentaries from other Christian anarchists—and some who were not so Christian.

LELA: I’ve noticed that in researching this topic that a fair number of anarchists claiming to be Christians just dismiss the verses they don’t like – claim they were added by Constantine or the Catholic Church.

BECKY: Exactly. But true Christians never presuppose that the Bible is just another book from which we pick and choose what we wish to believe. It is the Word of God in its entirety, even those parts that mystify us or confuse our puny, finite minds. Ergo, I immediately ruled out anyone who denied the Bible’s authority, who pooh-poohed either passage as not really inspired or as some government’s later interpolation, or who dismissed these verses as Paul and Peter’s disingenuous attempt to placate their Roman persecutors.

LELA: I totally agree. I don’t know how someone can call themselves a Christian, but ignore the parts of God’s word they don’t agree with. That standard often makes for some complications, but it’s the only way to be true to my faith, I think.

BECKY: Anyway, after crashing into lots of dead ends, I finally found this masterful treatment of Romans 13 and I Peter 2. The author makes an excellent case for their wildly inaccurate translations from the original Greek – and though I don’t read Hebrew, as I mentioned previously, I studied both Greek and Latin as my major in college. So I was able to verify his thesis that the Greek words used in these passages do not typically pertain to government; rather, they refer to other “authorities,” such as our biological fathers, owners of property, etc. (I am over-simplifying here and urge folks to read the article rather than rely on my inadequate summary.) Indeed, the usual translations, whether King James or more modern ones, err so egregiously that they invert the meaning, upholding the State instead of its private and far superior alternatives.

LELA: My Greek is not as good as yours. I have to rely on helps and on friends who have studied Greek. I went to the Net Bible’s Greek interlinear of Romans 13 and cross-referenced with Strongs and found that it is a voluntary giving in for the purposes of cooperation. There’s an element in the word “exousia” (translated governing authorities) of the power of choice or liberty. In 1 Peter, I found similar ideas of voluntaryism with the idea that the king (or ruler of the people) is to be estimated (or judged) by the people. I’m pretty sure that the Christians of Paul and Peter’s time would have estimated Nero as a crazy man who wanted them all dead. At some point we’re going to have to talk about whether we can adequately estimate the value of a ruler through elections, but let’s continue with the Scriptures for now.

BECKY: Restoring their true content to these two sections of Holy Writ shows us yet again that our omnipotent, omniscient God does not contradict Himself. (And now, the third verse of Romans 13 makes utter sense, too: our fathers, tutors, and other familial and social “rulers” do indeed reward us when we do well!) The Lord utterly opposes evil, even from politicians and government. And His revelation bears this out in all its chapters, including those that fallen sinners have (deliberately) mis-translated.

Meanwhile, in addition to the Bible’s outright condemnations of political government, Scripture also implies that the State should not exist. We find some of the most egregious implications against the State in the Ten Commandments.

Too many Christians read these laws as if the Sixth and Eighth end with the words “unless thou wearest a badge and a polyester costume that the State issueth.” Yet “You shall not murder” and “You shall not steal” are pretty much absolute. They permit no exceptions, nor do they read, “You shall not murder unless the State says it’s OK because those little brown people over there in Iraq might be terrorists” or “You shall not steal unless the government lusts after the ‘revenue’ from the traffic tickets you write hapless drivers.”

Let’s think about that for a moment to understand how truly radical it is. If the Lord – and we, His followers – hold the State to the Eighth Commandment, if indeed no one, not the IRS, not the Congress or president, no bureaucrat, no politician, no cop or judge, can legitimately, “morally” force anyone to hand over his wealth, then taxation will screech to a halt. Government cannot function, cannot even exist, without the taxes it steals from us. The State will disappear.

Likewise with war, which is nothing more than organized, State-mandated mass murder. Randolph Bourne very wisely observed that “War is the health of the State.” Other philosophers have noted that wars allow governments to grow exponentially, that legislators who pass “emergency measures” while bullets are flying do not rescind them when peace is declared. New taxes, new bureaucracies, new infringements on freedom – war allows the State to foist all these on its subjects.

But if we take the Commandment against murder seriously, if indeed no one, not the Pentagon, not the Congress or president, no bureaucrat, no politician, no cop or judge, can legitimately, “morally” murder another person, even a foreign one, then war will end. And the State will shrink dramatically if it doesn’t completely vanish.

Until that glorious day, however, many churches and Christians act as if the Ten Commandments are mere suggestions, and ones they can safely ignore at that. Far from rebuking or shunning members of their congregations who volunteer to murder on government’s behalf, they praise them. And while I have gagged at plenty of sermons about how “honest” Christians will never cheat on their taxes, I have yet to hear one on how honest Christians will oppose official theft and all the evils politicians buy with our money, from abortions to the White House’s lies , lavish living , and orgies .

In case the Ten Commandments’ prohibition of the State’s life-blood doesn’t convince readers that political government is incompatible with the Bible, I’ll look at another of our Lord’s implications next week, Lela. Hint: many people consider this one “golden.”

LELA: I look forward to that.
Becky Akers is a free-lance writer and historian who has written two novels about the American Revolution, Halestorm and Abducting Arnold.

 

 

Halestorm and Abducting Arnold, the revolutionary novels. Buy them before they’re banned!

Visit the books’ website.

Your Morality Should Not Be Moralism   1 comment

There is a difference, but it is one that the modern churches don’t seem to understand.

Christians practice morality for two reasons.

The first is because we are grateful to God for His loving care toward us, for what He chose to do on the cross so that we could be right with Him. Our “good” behavior did not earn us salvation because there is no way we could ever be good enough to match the goodness of God. He did it for us because we couldn’t do it for ourselves. And it was no easy thing. The sinless God, Who absolutely hates sin, left the perfection of His spiritual realm to take on human flesh, struggle with the weakness toward sin, and then die on the cross and take on the sins of every human being that had ever lived or ever would live, so that every individual who chooses to accept that sacrifice can be forgiven and eventually enter into God’s eternal realm where there will be no sin. Imagine coating yourself in something you consider to be vile for the love of folks who mostly reject what you’re offering? That’s the love God showed toward us and for those of us who have accepted it, our applause for what God has done for us is that we make disciples for Him wherever we go. We do that in part by living moral lives by His standards of morality.

The second reason we live moral lives is that the world is watching us. Regardless of what the world says about our morality, make no mistake, they judge God by how well we keep that morality. Even as they say “Quit struggling and live like us”, they watch to see if what we believe has any positive impact upon our lives. When we live just like the world, the world judges that and finds God wanting. If God really has power to change lives, they think, then His transformative power would be evident in the lives of His followers.

Regardless of what they say, that’s what they’re thinking (I used to be one of them, I know).

BUT …

There is a difference between morality and moralism. There are things I don’t do because God has assured me they are not good for me and there are things that I don’t do because God has assured me they are not good for others. Conversely, there are things I do because God has assured me they’re good for me and things I do because God has assured me that what I do will be seen by others and have a positive effect upon them. That’s morality, which involves fleeing immorality to embrace Christlike living. Fleeing immorality can look different from Christian to Christian, which we will discuss later, but whenever the Bible speaks on something definitely, we should not argue with God, but do what we know to be right.

And, yes, sometimes God asks us to do things that are difficult and uncomfortable or to not do things that are pleasurable and fun. That’s another topic.

Christians live in this world, but are not of this world. We’re still human. Our flesh still desires the comforts and pleasures that our neighbors enjoy, but our God requires that we live different lives from the society around us. Why? Because it will be noticed, whether or not we are even aware of it. Jesus even told us in John that the world will hate us because we follow Him and if the world hates us for reflecting Jesus, we should not be ashamed.

For the first three centuries of Christianity, Christians understood this. Often persecuted, always considered less-than outsiders, Christians lived in this world but were not of it. During those 300 years, the Christian population grew from less than 200 in Jerusalem to more than one-quarter of the population of the Greco-Roman world. How? If you look at history, it was definitely not through the sword. Christians had no power. What they did have was love, but not the phony “love” today’s society wants to see. While not excusing the sin around them, they gave selflessly to the society they lived in.

An example? In Rome, Christians were accused of spreading the plague. They might have actually been partially responsible. When plague broke out, the Roman officials sealed off entire neighborhoods to try and control the spread. No food went in, no one came out. Christians would volunteer to go into these plague-ridden areas to feed people, to care for the sick, to dispose of the bodies. I’m sure many of them got sick too and as disease-transmission was not well understood at the time, they may have been accidentally responsible for the spread, but consider what they were doing. They were volunteering to go into a no-man’s land to carry God’s love into dark places — they were risking their own lives to care for others. Some of the survivors, impressed by this, became Christians.

This was how Christianity grew in the early days, before the Church had the power of the state behind it. Not only did it do charity among those society had written off, it rescued the children Romans abandoned to the element and lived lives that were different enough from those around them that some people found it attractive.

After the loosely affiliated churches reformed into the Roman Catholic Church, things changed. Instead of showing their light before the world so that the world either hated them or were attracted to them, the Church had the power to order people to become (nominal) Christians. Of course, they weren’t really Christians, because Christianity is an inward transformation that is evidenced by a moral life, not a series of rituals and regulations that your body follows to please some moral code. And, we’re still in that mode, folks! It’s been 1700 years and we’re still thinking we can change the world by changing how people act.

We can’t. Paul warned us that we can’t in Galatians, Corinthians, Romans and Philippians. You can’t make dead people alive by forcing them to live moral lives, because living moral lives is not what made us alive. The grace of God imparted by the death of Jesus on the cross did that. How can we believe that we are saved by grace through the blood of Jesus and not of ourselves (which would only make us boastful), and think that somehow we can set moral standards for the world around us and drag them along to heaven with us?

Worse, however, is that we think if we make the world just moral enough, we can mostly live like the world and that will be fine with God. Then we wonder why the churches aren’t growing and our children profess faith as children and then walk away from the church as young adults.

The churches today, in the United States at least, have become social clubs for prudes, bossy-bosses, and the unnaturally happy. We talk a good talk, but in reality, we don’t look substantially different from the world around us. We get divorced at about the same rate as the world. Our children have premarital sex at about the same rate. Our remarriage rate after divorce is actually higher than the society around us. Why are we shocked that there are churches that now think God is fine with homosexuality? Will we be shocked when in the next generation, churches begin to accept polyamory and, eventually, paedaphilia? All of these activities existed in abundance in the 1st century world that Paul ministered in — in the society surround the churches at Corinth, Thessalonica, and Rome. Paul, writing in God’s authority, told these Christians to flee immorality.

And, the churches grew by leaps and bounds even as the world hated them.

Fruit of the Spirit Redux   Leave a comment

A lot of things in the Bible require a God-centered perspective to truly understand. The Trinity, for example, is a concept that develops through a Christian’s experience with Jesus. A non-Christian may acquire a head knowledge about it, but they will never truly ‘get’ it until they’ve spent time with Jesus, in the Bible and in prayer.

Other concepts can be explained by Christians and, I believe, this is one.

If you’ve ever tried your hand at gardening, you should be familiar with the following concepts.

You reap what you sow.

The branches are defined by their root.

If you plant tomatoes seeds, you won’t harvest peppers. If you are growing tomatoes under the conditions for cabbage, your  crop will die rather than produce.

Here in Alaska, apple trees do not grow naturally. The ground is too cold for too much of the year. But we have hybridized crab apple trees and graphed regular apples to that root stock so that we can grow small, edible apples here. The root must be adapted to our conditions for the rest of the tree to grow.

Christians are like God’s hybridized seeds. He has transformed us (with our permission) to serve His will. He plants us where He needs us to be and we are there to serve His purpose. We draw our spiritual sustenance from Jesus, the root of our faith.

As the apple trees here can produce fruit because their roots are adapted to our conditions, Christians produce fruit because we are nourished by Jesus.

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5)

This is not ala carte Christianity. A faithful Christian will produce these fruits.

Except …

Remember what I said about growing tomatoes in conditions fit for cabbages?

Plants respond favorably to treatment that suits their needs and unfavorably to treatment that is harmful to them. Christians who choose to disobey God (and it is always a choice) won’t produce the fruit of the Spirit in any appreciable quantity, because we’ve chosen to divorce ourselves from the root of our faith and land ourselves in conditions that favor the works of the flesh.

The Importance of A Cake   Leave a comment

What difference does it make? How would Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop have been harmed if he had simply ignored the clear fact that his customers were a gay couple and baked the cake? Alternatively, why couldn’t he have lied, said he was too busy and let Mr. Mullins and Mr. Craig continue in their delusion that everyone is now on board with homosexuality as a societal good?

Both scenarios would have required Mr. Phillips to violate God’s law – either by lying or by associating with sinful behavior – affecting his relationship with his Savior. To a Christian that relationship takes precedence over all others. We must obey God rather than men.

A historical example of this was First Night, when Romans and later rulers imposed their will on the sanctity of marriage by reserving the right to have sex with the bride on the wedding night. Christians refused because their view of marriage was different from that of the Roman authorities. Research St. Valentine for a fuller story, but the Romans really didn’t understand why Christians refused to comply. What was the big deal? How were the couples harmed? Get with society’s program, Christians! Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.

No government official demand First Night today because Christians refused to comply and instead resisted assimilation.

Now, today, it is a cake. What’s the big deal? It’s just a cake! Society says sexual immorality is okay now. Just go along to get along and keep your beliefs to yourselves, Christians. Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated!

Today, it’s acake. Next year it may be the government telling my pastor that he must conduct homosexual wedding ceremonies. In a decade, it may well be that my church may be forced to hire an atheist as pastor because we are not allowed to discriminate and choose whom we will or will not associate with. We risk assimilation if we do not resist.

The time to set aside Romans 13 and take a principled stand on behalf of our faith has come, Christians! We must peacefully say “No, we will not comply when society says its agenda takes precedence over our faith. May be that stand will have nothing to do with baking a cake for a homosexual wedding, but Christians must decide if and when our beliefs must be more important to us than getting along with society.

Posted May 24, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Subverting Scripture   Leave a comment

Romans 13 was written in AD 56-57 from Corinth, where Paul was making tents in the market place while ministering to the local community. Most Christians were not power brokers. The earliest Christians were Jews living in virtual clientage in Palestine. Paul was a Roman citizen with the rights that came with that status, but he abandoned the prestige of being Gamalial’s heir-apparent as THE scholar in Jerusalem to be God’s ambassador to the Gentiles. So he sewed tents in the market place.

The church Paul wrote to was nothing like the church of Rome 300 years later. This congregation lived under threat and soon Nero would attack them with impunity, accusing them of spreading the plague and burning down parts of Rome. The last thing the congregation in Rome needed was the reputation of being rebellious. Thus, Paul suggested they submit to the authorities.

There’s two reasons for this and he touched on them. One, God’s followers are in the world, but not of it. Our citizenship is not Roman or American so much as it is heaven. This is true now as it was true then, but it was more true then. Christians might have to flee to another country to survive. As such, they couldn’t afford to become too attached to whatever governmental system they lived under. The second reason was that Jesus had told them to be peaceful and forgiving, so to be rebellious would cast the God they served in a bad light.

They were going to be hated as Christians regardless, but Paul wanted them hated for being Christians, not for refusing to pay their taxes or follow some other secular law that did not impact their Christianity.

Being Christian was enough of a crime because Christians did not bow to Caesar or sacrifice in the pagan temples. After Paul’s sojourn in Ephesus, Christians would stop buying and making silver idols for the goddess Diana. Christian masters sometimes freed their slaves, which actually led to revolts among slaves held by non-Christian masters. The private worship practices of Christians struck the pagans, used to public displays of religion, as highly suspect — causing false accusations of cannibalism and incest. Later the pagans would feel that Christian neglect of the old pagan gods lead to the weakening of the Roman Empire.

Paul meant for Christians to voluntarily submit to authorities to avoid trouble with the government and so that Christians would be hated for being Christians, not hated for being subversives.

And, I would note, his advice eventually worked. Christians became known throughout the Empire as peaceful people who went about their faith without resorting to violence. They took this idea of submission so far that they sang hymns as they walked into the coliseums to be devoured by wild animals as a form of execution.

Yet, once the church at Rome and, by extension, Christianity, became the exclusive religion of the Roman Empire, that voluntary submission became a liability requiring a subversion of Scripture.

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