Continuing the insights of Jonathan Leeman in POLITICAL CHURCH: The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ’s Rule begun in my last post, he cites the writings of John Locke which informed the thinking of the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This understanding of a social contract excluded atheists because he assumes “the social fabric depends upon commitments underpinned by the fear of God.” He writes, “The true ground of morality can only be the Will and Law of a God, who sees Men in the dark, has in his Hand Rewards and Punishments, and Power enough to call to account the proudest Offender.”
In other words the ground of government is God’s laws not man’s consciences. The more we are governed only by human conscience the more the nation will be characterized by widespread disobedience, crime and anarchy. George Washington and John Adams, among other Founders, believed that the Constitution and Bill of Rights could only work if the people were governed by religion and divine morality. For Christian citizens that requires declaring that Christ is Lord over all, and the final authority, as revealed in Holy Scripture.
“Therefore the local church acts as an embassy of Christ’s rule within the nation. It represents the invisible spiritual realities of heaven, heaven’s powers and heaven’s battles against the cosmic powers of the present darkness and the spiritual forces of evil. A church is almost like a doorway to another dimension. Through the keys of the kingdom a group of Christians open this doorway to make the invisible visible. The keys comprise the saints’ authority to establish themselves as a geographically and time-bound embassy of Christ’s end-time and uncontested rule.
Jesus does not commission churches to wield the sword and challenge governments directly. But he does commission churches to challenge the idols and false gods that prop up every government and marketplace, whether the gods of the Roman Empire or the gods of the secular West. Since no government is free of idols, churches preaching the gospel will always pose a certain kind of threat. Historical regimes have been correct to fear Christian influence and have sought to neutralize it with persecution and punishment. Persecution is the norm for Christians (John15:18-25) because Jesus is a threat to the gods of the nations. Persecution is the logical consequence of idolatry. The measure of success for Christians must be faithfulness to Christ. Our witness will be vindicated over time, sometimes in this world, certainly in eternity.”
What I take away from Leeman’s thesis is that Christians and the churches they represent are called to obey a higher authority than the State. They consent to the rule of government when it does not contradict the rule of the kingdom of God. They witness to the rule of Christ as revealed in Holy Scripture and seek to obey him as Lord even when civil government disobeys God’s law. This is the clear teaching of the New Testament. As a nation drifts away from the divine moral law and worships the idols of human conscience and so-called human freedom to do as you like, the Christian will be persecuted and pressured to conform to a new religion of “tolerance” and “diversity” at the cost of faithfulness to the Gospel. This calls for courage to witness to the truth as it is found in Jesus. The battle is on.