Will the Real Deist Please Stand Up?
Published by Luke Saint on
One of the frustrations faced by many of us is the inability to persuade Christian leaders…particularly pastors…to engage the culture and society in which we live with the teachings and commands of God in scripture. Not all pastors fit into this; let’s not paint with too broad a brush, but certainly a large number of them. It seems that to many, Christ is “Lord of all” except for that which He is not. It’s fine, they say, to apply scripture to being a good church member and personal holiness, good causes to be sure. If you mention, however, that God instituted civil government, and has biblical standards to which it is to comply, and that as His people it is OUR job to apply His Word to ALL of life…well, “uh-oh”, you stepped into bad territory. You see, in much of today’s church Christ is “sort of” Lord of all. Or, he’s “Lord of a lot”. Or in today’s narcissistic time He’s Lord of “MY life”.
How is it that, for instance, it is evil to teach children that they are NOT created by God, yet we have no obligation to biblically challenge those who use our tax money to do just that in public schools? Why is it “acceptable” to point out within the comfort of church that abortion is murder, but unthinkable to arrange a protest at an abortion clinic? How is it that theft is wrong, but we are somehow detracting from the Gospel if we suggest that God does not give to government the authority for unlimited confiscation of our property? Is God silent on this? If not, how can we claim to declare the whole counsel of God while shutting out entire areas of human existence from the application of His Word?
How is it that teaching on these subject is, in many churches, neglected or even forbidden, while people are re-learning for the twentieth time things that they learned in the new believers class thirty years ago? One reason for this is comfort. We all have a tendency to stay in our “comfort zone”. It’s comfortable to teach what we already know to people who already know it and agree with it. It’s not comfortable to tell elected officials that God condemns theft and that they are taking things to which they have no lawful claim. Nor was it likely comfortable for John the Baptist to tell Herod about adultery. Yet we have his example, and countless other examples throughout the Bible of people obediently speaking the truth…God’s message… to those in authority.
A first cousin to comfort is laziness. Few Bible colleges or seminaries, unfortunately, teach the application of scripture to culture and government in any depth. Because of this, the teaching of these necessary scriptural truths (all scriptural truth is necessary) carries with it the extra load of studying and learning in order to teach. Laziness is not the entire explanation either, though, because there are some pastors who, although ignorant in these areas themselves, have men in their congregations who have prayerfully studied these subjects for many years, who are forbidden to teach. This points to even more reasons, including apathy, cowardice and disobedience. Every case, every church, every pastor is different; these are just a range of possibilities.
Some pastors give theological reasons for a refusal to engage the culture. Some of these are sincere but misguided, however after many years of observation I have concluded that many of these are simply the twisting of scripture to justify apathy, indifference, and the reasons outlined above.
Many who see the need for instruction of our civil authorities in Godly government have had to study these things for themselves within the vacuum left by the churches. In so doing, they inevitably develop an appreciation for the early history of America, including the colonial era founders. Herein lies a tremendous irony. The pietistic Christian leaders who expend much time and energy to dissuade Christians from applying God’s Word to civil government are often the quickest to point out that “the founders were Deists”. They LOVE this claim, because it serves to bolster their rebellious efforts to divorce the Bible from civil government. And, like many such claims, it is often an exaggeration. Some, but far from all the founders were Deists, and if you read quotes from many such as Franklin it seems that their Deism was tempered more than a little by a belief in an immanent God. And the supreme irony of it all is that these leaders and pastors are themselves functioning, in the realm of civil government, as Deists. They are willing to admit that God established civil government, yet stubbornly persist in insisting that we as Christians have no scriptural basis for engaging in its operations or activities, and that the scriptures have little or nothing to say about the functioning of government in our day. I think that pastors who like to repeat the “founding fathers were Deists” claim would do well to examine themselves to see who are the real Deists.
~ Jim Mogel