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By Kevin Straub –

"Whereunto," asked Christ, "shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?" Mark 4:30. He could not employ the kingdoms of the world as a similitude. In society He found nothing with which to compare it. Earthly kingdoms rule by the ascendancy of physical power; but from Christ's kingdom every carnal weapon, every instrument of coercion, is banished. This kingdom is to uplift and ennoble humanity. God's church is the court of holy life, filled with varied gifts and endowed with the Holy Spirit. The members are to find their happiness in the happiness of those whom they help and bless.  Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, p. 12

I recently read the statement "that it is difficult to spread the gospel with a Bible in one hand and a missile control switch in the other." This is one of those things that should be self-evident. That Christians should not be involved in military service was a large part of the overall tradition and practice of the first two centuries of Christianity, where "the basic tone was one of polarity between Caesar and the God of the Bible" (John Howard Yoder, Christian Attitudes to War, Peace, and Revolution, p. 43).

Christianity, if it looks to Christ as its norm, will have nothing to do with the affairs of national/international politics and the wielding of the sword. It will not be involved in any of the processes involved in the adjustments of the balances of earthly powers. This is not our work. However, it has come to be standard thinking in Christianity that it is a part of our work. The discussions of whether to enter into a war or to stay out of that war is not merely academic in today's Christianity; it is deemed the Christian's duty to engage in a politicized Christianity. Today's Christianity, since the time of Constantine, is not concerned solely with the gospel work, remaining an outside observer of the machinations of worldly powers, but as subscribers to the notion of "the just war," is necessarily fundamentally involved in the geopolitical movements and the questions of taking nation(s) into war or not. If said war should be a "just war" then they will work in the munitions factories and send their sons and daughters to die for the cause. If not, then the conscientious Christians should be lobbying against it in every venue to which they have access.

Christians would do well to look into the early history to understand how it got that way. The period of the early fourth century saw a "creeping empire loyalty" that led into what is called by historians the "Constantinian Shift." This was a drift in the church characterized by an erosion of the standard Christian paradigm of non-involvement in worldly systems. As Christians changed status from "the persecuted" to "the privileged," it became honorable to serve the state. There developed a duality in the thinking and practice of Christians, which philosophizes, "God does some things through the emperor and that God does other things through Christians. God keeps one kind of peace through the emperor and creates other kinds of peace through Christians; the two complement each other" (ibid., pp. 58-59).

There is today a growing understanding amongst a cross-section of Bible students that embraces this duality, but from an entirely different perspective. Having the wrong perspective leads to tyranny, even "Christian" tyranny (I employ a contradiction in terms in order to make a point). Yoder goes on to say that "When that duality is in placethen Christians are prepared to say that when Caesar converts to Christianity, God will use him as a converted Caesar-not to be a king like Jesus but to be a ruler who favors Christians" (ibid., p. 59). When we arrive at such a state, we have opened the gate to the development of an imposed version of Christianity and persecution of those who do not subscribe to Caesar's Christianity. This is nothing less than the career of Rome. The other perspective views the worldly systems under Caesar as God's will only in a certain sense-"permissive will"-which runs counter to His perfect will. I know this is all a mouthful and while familiar territory to those who have studied the concept, is a radical departure from standard thinking in Christianity today, with its confused absorption of Satanic principles.

The short definition of "permissive will" is where God, in essence, makes concessions for human ignorance and hard-heartedness and rather than casting His people off to the immediate destruction inherent in their errant philosophies and conduct, will involve Himself in human affairs by counseling and directing them in accordance with their own faulty thoughts and ways. All of this is to put a check on a runaway reaction, as coolant slows down a nuclear reaction, preventing an otherwise catastrophic outcome. The Divine intent is to preserve and protect as much as possible, in order that later generations may come into a fuller understanding of His ways as well as realize the inevitability of the total demise of anything that is given over by God to function outside of His perfect will. To be clear, this includes everything that operates under modus operandi of "permissive will" which fails to relinquish its particular idols. Ancient Israel is "Exhibit A" in this matter. They chose the way of the sword. God gave them laws and instructions governing the use of the sword in both civil and international matters. Yet Jesus later said, "Put up your sword, Peter; don't you know that he who lives by the sword dies by the sword?" The nation in general refused to relinquish the sword, for they wanted a Military Messiah and when He was not that Man, they killed Him. Then they went on to continue rebelling against the Romans and were wiped out in A. D. 70. We will touch on some of this again in a moment. (For a broader discussion of the subject see our book As He Is: Issues in the Character of God' Controversy, by 4th Angel Publications, published by TEACH Services, Inc., or contact straub@direct.ca)

What we are getting into has to do with the very core of the great controversy, which is a showcase of contrasting governing systems. God's ways are not like anything on the earth. His government is based upon total love, genuine love which is an "all-for-the-other, none-for-self, self-sacrificing-beneficence." It gives all of self out for the good of others. There is no concern for self in God's ways, because "little ol' me" is taken care of by all of the others, who themselves operate under the same system of "all for the other." It is a wonderful trade: all of self for all of the others. Satan's operating system is "all-for-self, none-for-the-others, other-sacrificing-self-exaltation." Satan's way will give benefit out to others only if it serves self, but will sacrifice others at any moment if they pose any threat to self.

God's government is constituted in twin principles which are the underpinnings of true love: freedom of choice and non-coercion. God does not rule by inducements to reward or threats of punishment. It is preposterous to think that He would propose to us that on the vertical plane we unite with His Divinity our hearts and minds, as typified on the horizontal plane by the freely chosen acceptance of a woman to enter into the human marriage relation, but then diverge radically from the human experience by making such proposal while drawing aside His coat to reveal that He is packing a .44 and it will be used if His intended bride does not accept His proposal. Further, if she does accept His proposal, the pistol remains. It is kept in a cabinet above the marriage bed. She is free to leave at any time, but He will track her down and He'll have the weapon with Him. We know in our inner being-another "self-evident" reality, that  love, in order to be love, must be free. It must be free to choose, free from force. What I have here described is neither free to choose or non-coercive. It is based on hope of reward (she gets to live) and fear of punishment (He will take her life). There can be no loyalty to such a Husband, based upon a heart appreciation of His character and His ways.

So, to bring this around, we find that Christianity today is fundamentally misguided in having adopted concerns for the running of this world's systems, which are rooted in imposed and arbitrary laws which are enforced by threats of arbitrarily imposed violence and/or losses of freedom. Christians can, however, oppose Satan's government without being involved in any politicking or without taking any offices in governments, militaries, or law enforcement systems of this world-practices that were strictly forbidden in the first centuries of Christianity. When we come into a deeper understanding that it has been Satan's consistent aim to "misrepresent the character of God, the nature of sin, and the real issues at stake in the great controversy" (The Great Controversy, p. 568), we will be very careful about how we become involved in opposing or supporting political movements or decisions regarding national involvement in the wielding of the sword for whatever reasons.

An understanding of the "real issues at stake in the great controversy" will make us realize that our involvement in the controversy will be through teaching and example, not by lobbies, marches, votes for political candidates, or serving in enforcement systems that are built upon the deployment and use of deterrents-fines and sanctions, apprehension and detainment systems, and/or lethal weapons. Gun control issues? We should not be involved in the arguments for or against. We should be involved in exposing the principles of Satan's government which make it necessary for humans to have weapons, as contrasted with God's government which is holy and harmless and undefiled.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

We are not to be involved in the world's ways of forcing peace. We understand, according to the modality of God's "permissive will," that these things are necessary. God is represented in the Bible as setting up and tearing down the kingdoms and systems of this world even as "His ministers," as it were (Rom. 13:6). This is all language that depicts God as doing that which He gives over to. That we live under earthly rulers and powers are part of the curse of sin and not actually a scenario which He ever intended and which He is, in fact, working to reverse. Rejecting God means taking on other gods and if other gods are what we want, then other gods we shall have, according to the fundamentals of God's character and government. As such, the tyranny of man over man is said to be an ordinance of God to which we must submit (Rom. 13:2; 1 Pet. 2:13). Without any imposed system of law and order things would run quickly to total destruction, as noted earlier. These systems are not based upon God's ways, and in fact they are a part of God's wrath in and of themselves, even while they are necessary to keep a lid on total wrath. Does this make sense? Hosea 13:11 informs us on this point, in that God said, "I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took [him] away in my wrath." Even the governance of Israel under Moses was expanded to a tiered system of human authority not because it was God's will. It was by "permission," a concession God made:

The Lord permitted Moses to choose for himself the most faithful and efficient men to share the responsibility with him. Their influence would assist in holding in check the violence of the people, and quelling insurrection; yet serious evils would eventually result from their promotion. They would never have been chosen had Moses manifested faith corresponding to the evidences he had witnessed of God's power and goodness. Had he relied fully upon God, the Lord would have guided him continually and would have given him strength for every emergency. Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 380.2

The entire system of the revolving door of earthly powers is wrath. Wrath is what we get when God is sidelined. Its severity is coextensive to the degree that we have forsaken Him. Therefore, it is fallen humanity's unhappy situation to experience the reality that rejecting God results in being automatically punished with numerous curses as natural outcome, not arbitrarily imposed by God. Among the effects of sin are included the "appointment" of leaders who have rejected God and who will rule from selfish principles. Such is an automatic reduction of freedom for the errant voter, acting as a built-in "punishment."

Even the necessity of parental guidance over children by a strong hand which curtails the "freedoms" of self-will is a result of sin. In other words, that we have to act "as God" over our children, making their choices for them, up to a certain age of relinquishing the reins of control is not a model of God's perfect will. It is a necessary accommodation to the reality of living in a sin-cursed environment. We use inducements of rewards and threats of punishment to "guide" our children. (How to transition to and function within God's perfect will in child-rearing is an area of mystery to this writer!) The point is that it is said even that when parents will not perform their duty to their children that "God Himself will take the case in hand. His restraining power will be in a measure removed from the agencies of evil, so that a train of circumstances will arise which will punish sin with sin" (PP 728.1). What this says, pertaining to this discussion, is that when God takes the case into His own hands, He does not punish proactively but removes restraints on destructive forces and lets them wreak their effects on the self-willed.

"Permissive will" gives us earthly rulers that on the one hand can be a blessing and give us some measures of temporal security as well as freedoms to live according to our beliefs and preach the gospel but even the best of governments take much from the people, as God warned the ancient Israelites. Not only will earthly governments forcefully require of us a portion of our labor, but they will use it to engage in war. The people said, "now make us a king to judge us like all the nations (1 Sam. 8:5). God told them that a king would take everything off them by force, even their children, and they would "cry out in that day" because of the burdens they must bear under the yoke of earthly rulers; and He declared that He would not hear them-they would have to live with their choices (v. 18). God was against human rulers, but God Himself chose the first king, didn't He?

So, the kingdoms and ways of man are what they are. They have to do their thing in this world ravaged by the disease brought on by sin, which manifests in various ways, on every street corner, in every home and in every institution of man. Without them Satanic principles would quickly decimate the earth and its inhabitants. However, it is not our function on this earth to manage the governance and enforcements of Satan's systems. We have to leave that business over to God, who has His angels in place to do that job and who knows how and when He must stand down in His role as Protector and Sustainer.

Kevin Straub is a former classroom educator, trained at Canadian University College, who writes from the northern edge of civilization in central Canada, where he lives with his wife and two children on a horse ranch. In the summer he is an avid gardener while in the off-season commits more fully to study, research and writing. At times he vacates his quiet home in the woods and hills to travel and lecture internationally. He has enjoyed writing casually over the years, occasionally published in a variety of small independent periodicals. He is now working on a second book having already co-authored and produced a book published by TEACH Services, Inc., As He Is: Issues in the Character of God' Controversy, released in 2012 under the author name "4thAngel Publications."

 

Photo credit: iStockPhoto

 

 
 

5 Comments

  1. Jason Brickman says:

    This article makes some very important points that Christians should not miss.

  2. Doug Yowell says:

    Interesting perspective and one that needs further clarification. At face value it would seem that Straub opposes the very activism of those Christians who founded the United States and created the very political foundations that lead to the present concept of the Great Controversy.In our republican form of government Christians ARE the government ("of the people, by the people, and for the people"). Yet, being against promoting war and being against governmental participation are two different things. I am wary of such thinking as it is so often used to excuse Christians from their civic duties in other societal areas—like voting against pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality candidates.

  3. Kevin Straub says:

    Doug, nice to hear from you again.

    We have to look to Christ as our Guide and Example. If He was involved in the machinery of human governance of His time, then we could study how it was so and do the same.

    What are our "civic duties"? Think carefully on this. A plebiscite vote pertaining to the stay of moral decadence at a societal level, on specific issues, would be of a different order, I think. Our "duties" would also concern taking on educational roles against issues, such as Sunday legislation. A. T. Jones was the point man on this issue when the Blair Bill of 1888 was introduced, speaking before an assembly of legislators. How was Jones acting? As an educator or a legislator? A Blair biographer in her dissertation "A Puritan in Washington," said that the Senator "saw himself as cosmically aligned between the forces of good and evil, and true to his Puritan beliefs, he saw compromise as unapproachable and morality legislation as natural outgrowth of moral suasion." Do we want to take that route, upping the ante from moral "suasion" to "legislation"? Could Sabbath-keepers with a legislative mind-set become persecutors? It is a slippery slope, my friend.

    As to a belief that we should be positively involving ourselves in the political process, voting for candidates for government, I cannot agree. This puts us on the side of legislating rather than educating. Whatever incentives a politician may give toward the end of gaining the "moral vote" comes along with a package of other philosophies of governance and immoral actions that our favored representative will carry out while in office. Invariably, that man carries a gun (his finger is on the missile launch button) and will use it on offenders. By aligning ourselves with Caesar, we become de facto agents of this world's systems, when our time and efforts, as Christians, need to be focused on doing Christ's work, building the kingdom of God.

    All that being said, we should have enough experience with politicians to know that they don't keep their promises, anyway. They serve another kingdom not bound by any principles other than service to self. As such, all manner of hypocrisy and immorality is employed towards the standard of man: self-exaltation.

    PRINCIPLE: there is nothing in this world to which Christ could compare His kingdom. IMPLICATION: As citizens of heaven, let us stay out of earthly kingdom building. Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar. I.e., let Caesar concern himself with politics.

  4. clay stanwick says:

    I agree with the writer that God's will is never to fight and kill our enemies in war. God promised Israel when they left Egypt that He would lead them and take care of their enemies but they would have to trust Him. That lasted only until God brought them to safety thorough the Red Sea and took total care of their enemies but it was not long and they once more felt they had to fight their enemies themselves. Our commission given by God is to love our enemies and that does not mean killing them as well as innocent children and women. If you government demands that we go to war we as Christians should insist in not bearing arms and be willing to go into the medics and help take care of the wounded on both sides if necessary. Our nation does not really operate as a Christian nation and in claiming to do so are following the Old Covenant rather the the New Covenant that Jesus Christ instituted. We need to exercise faith that God will deal with our enemies when we trust Him and walk by faith in His leading.

  5. Nathan says:

    Good discussion I see. We, human beings, have been so educated in the ways of man that it is difficult to discern the heavenly ways.

    I also agree with the writer's perspective regarding how to treat our enemies in war. This has been twice demonstrated in the 20th century during the two world wars where ardent adventist christians stood against bearing arms in those two momentous times.

    On the issue of voting for politicians, in fact we have to be loyal citizens. The issue is where is our citizenry? God's people are to prove themselves citizens of the kingdom of grace and true and obedient children of God (10MR 295.1).Christ never established any kingdom here on earth…the word "establish" is actually to set up something… then we may ask ourselves whether when we vote we are establishing some govt.

    The torch of religious liberty will shine more and more till the close of probation.

 
 
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