The State of the Church and the State of the State (Jeremiah 23:9–40)

 

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In the prophets of Samaria
I saw an unsavory thing:
they prophesied by Baal
and led my people Israel astray.
But in the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen a horrible thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one turns from his evil;
all of them have become like Sodom to me,
and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.

—Jeremiah 23:13–14

In conversations concerning politics and religion, Americans frequently mention a wall of separation between church and state. That idea was intended by Jefferson as a one way street, yet most people today, ignoring the “Wrong Way” signage, are driving the opposite direction. The phrase was meant, not to keep the church from driving to Washington, but to keep Washington from driving a church—a state church on the republic.

Nevertheless, using my liberty to leverage the phrase in yet another manner, let us pray that the church is truly separate from the state in this—in holiness. Let us pray that there is a wall of separation between the sins of the state and the state of the church. Unfortunately, I believe the reason the state is full of lies is because the church is. The world is dark because the world is dark while the light has been hidden. When the world is rotting without pause, it means that which is posing as salt isn’t salty and therefore good for nothing but to be cast out.

In Israel there was to be no separation of church and state; rather, both were to be separate, set apart unto Yahweh. But both the state, that is the kings, and the church, that is the prophets and priests, had become defiled. In chapters 21–23 Jeremiah first denounces the kings and then the prophets. More time is spent on the kings in these chapters, but it’s highly likely more time is spent on the prophets in the book as a whole. Indeed, Jeremiah speaks concerning false prophets more than any other true prophet.

Whereas the main invective against the kings was their oppressing the poor, that of the prophets was their deceiving the people. The former fleeces the sheep, the latter leads them to destruction. John MacKay comments, 

“From the preceding section the impression might readily be gained that the problems facing Jeremiah had to do with the political institutions of Judah and its civil leadership. That unfortunately was true but they were by no means the exclusive source of opposition to him. Both church and state were corrupt in Judah, and in this section he focus is on the religious degeneracy of the land. …it was what they [the prophets] proclaimed in the name of the LORD that set the tone for church and state in Judah, as well as reflecting prevailing sentiment.” 

This section is “concerning the prophets,” but yet is speaks of the wickedness of the land. The implication is that the prophets are to blame. Where prophets are false, the church is false. When the church is false, the state of the state is sure to be one full of lies.

Meridian Church · Jeremiah 23:9–40 || Concerning the Prophets || Josh King

 

The Don: A Problem that Says We Have a Bigger Problem

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“Unless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective values, we perish. If we do, we may live, and such a return might have one minor advantage. If we believed in the absolute reality of elementary moral platitudes, we should value those who solicit our votes by other standards than have recently been in fashion. While we believe that good is something to be invented, we demand of our rulers such qualities as ‘vision’, ‘dynamism’, ‘creativity’, and the like. If we returned to the objective view we should demand qualities much rarer, and much more beneficial—virtue, knowledge, diligence and skill. ‘Vision’ is for sale, or claims to be for sale, everywhere. But give me a man who will do a day’s work for a day’s pay, who will refuse bribes, who will not make up his facts, and who has learned his job.” —C.S. Lewis, from “The Poison of Subjectivism” in C.S. Lewis Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces

An Attempt to Do Justice and Walk Humbly: A Response to the BGCO Letter Concerning SB 13 (Part 1/Introduction)

Senate Bill 13, if passed, would end abortion in Oklahoma. On February 21st the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma released a letter listing three concerns, among unstated others, which they have with the bill. They then conclude that they cannot in good conscience get behind SB 13 as it is proposed.

In a series of posts this week I want explain why I think each of these concerns fall flat. Because they are baseless, unless better reasons are provided, I believe our consciences should be bound in the other direction. Normally you lead with your best arguments. If this is the best they’ve got, I fear the worst.

Even so, I believe these men to be brothers in Christ. But as Paul’s rebuke of Peter demonstrates, a brother can be seriously wrong (Galatians 2:11). When a brother is in sin we should neither pull our punches nor flail wildly without reserve. We should call it both as it is and as we hope it to be. We should allow neither our love to eclipse the truth, nor the truth to eclipse our love. So again, I believe these men are brothers and I believe they are dead wrong.

I don’t doubt that these brothers have faced as much slander and vitriol as they have loving rebuke. That ain’t me. I hate that sin too. Nevertheless, being the victim of injustice does not guarantee that your stance is just. Victimhood is no marker of virtue.

I also believe the men who wrote this letter, and many who support their sentiments, hate abortion. I doubt not their love for the unborn and their desire to save lives. What I want to address are the lame concerns they use to prop up what I believe is a dreadful conclusion.

I could be wrong. Of these things I am certain: abortion is an abomination and abortion should be abolished. Of this I am also certain, I am a fallible human being reading a fallible piece of human legislation. There could be legit reasons not to support SB 13, but I’m unaware of any. I am open to correction and instruction. I pray I take as well as I give. When seeking to do justice, we must also love kindness and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).


If you are a member or a pastor of an Oklahoma Southern Baptist Church and disagree with the BGCO, consider signing this letter and requesting to join the Facebook group Oklahoma Baptists for SB 13.


The August Theologian: Rotting from the Inside Out

On Scipio:

“He did not consider that republic flourishing whose walls stand, but whose morals are in ruins.” —Augustine, The City of God

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The Exegetical Systematician: Church and State

To the church is committed the task of proclaiming the whole counsel of God and, therefore, the counsel of God as it bears upon the responsibility of all persons and institutions. While the church is not to discharge the functions of other institutions such as the state and the family, nevertheless it is charged to define what the functions of these institutions are, and the lines of demarcation by which they are distinguished. It is also charged to declare and inculcate the duties which devolve upon them. Consequently when the civil magistrate trespasses the limits of his authority, it is incumbent upon the church to expose and condemn such a violation of his authority. When laws are proposed or enacted which are contrary to the law of God, it is the duty of the church to oppose them and expose their iniquity. When the civil magistrate fails to exercise his God-given authority in the protection and promotion of the obligations, rights, and liberties of the citizens, the church has the right and duty to condemn such inaction, and by its proclamation of the counsel of God to confront the civil magistrate with his responsibility and promote the correction of such neglect. The functions of the civil magistrate, therefore, come within the scope of the church’s proclamation in every respect in which the Word of God bears upon the proper or improper discharge of these functions, and it is only misconception of what is involved in the proclamation of the whole counsel of God that leads to the notion that the church has no concern with the political sphere.” —John Murray, The Relation of Church and State

The Apologist: An Explanation for 2016

We are surrounded on every side with the loss of truth, with the possibility of manipulation that would have made Hitler chuckle, that would have caused the rulers of Assyria to laugh with glee. And we not only have the possibilities for these manipulations, but people are trained on the basis of the loss of truth and the loss of the control of reason to accept them. —Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century