Do you think my preaching is not balanced? I get criticized by other Christians a lot and it makes me doubt myself and do a self examination. . . . How many of my sermons have you listened to? My answer is that what I preach emerges as a result of faithful exposition and application of Scripture. I recently finished a series on James and am now going through Colossians.
From the rest of the letter (I omit some of it for it includes personal references) it becomes clear that the critics claim that my friend’s frequent mention of politics and culture is what makes his preaching “not balanced.”
So it’s politics and culture.
I know my friend, and I have listened to his sermons and teachings, and I have read his articles, and I have been to his church many times, and I have even had the [undeserved] privilege to teach in his Sunday school and preach in church. I can say this:
My friend teaches his congregation theology: The Person and the nature of God, the Trinity, the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God; creation in six days; the Creation ordinance and covenant of God with mankind, and the restorative covenant with the redeemed humanity after the Fall.
He also teaches the nature of man and his God-given Dominion Mandate; the Biblical significance of work and stewardship. He and another elder in the church are independent businessmen, and as such they teach and give example to others of the Christian way of doing business. He also teaches the Fall, the nature of sin, redemption, salvation, and the status of the redeemed man in Christ; the sacrifice and the blood of Christ as the only means for man to be restored into fellowship with God. He is an active evangelist himself, both in personal evangelism and through radio spots on the local radio stations. People in his church are also actively involved in evangelism; a young entrepreneur and business owner in the church often takes a loud-speaker after work and goes to a street corner to do street evangelism. The church has strong families and Christian education of the children – especially home education – is encouraged. Another elder of the church is a professional educator, and as we talked a few weeks ago, he is in the process of creating a curriculum for a local Christian school run by another pastor in the area.
My friend also teaches the Law of God as a tutor to Christ, as a mirror for us to reveal our sin, and as a rule of righteousness and justice, individual and collective. He preaches on Biblical ethics and encourages his congregation to seek that sanctification that can be achieved only through obeying the Law of God. His church is very strict about sinful conduct, and has high requirements of its members.
He teaches on the work of God in history – God’s sanctions for nations and individuals according to their obedience or disobedience to the Law of God. He is especially fond of teaching the history of Christian England (Alfred the Great is one of his heroes) and Christian Scotland (he teaches Sunday school on the Scots Worthies by John Howie).
He teaches his church the Great Commission and the victory of the Gospel in history. The church is well learned in the different eschatological views, better than many other churches that I have visited over the years. One of my first experiences when I visited his church for the first time was to get a thorough lesson by one of the church members on the differences between pre- and postmillennialism, and the importance of eschatology to our actions today. The church member was an ordinary Christian, he never went to seminary, and he never had any formal theological or philosophical education outside of his local church.
In fact, in general, my friend’s church is among the top churches I know in terms of thorough training in systematic theology, Biblical theology, applied ethics, and many other areas. They have weekly communion, and their worship and preaching are all self-consciously based on the Bible. The members are catechized, they know the creeds, and can recite them. And these people read voraciously.
And yes, he also applies the truths of the Bible to the political and cultural arena. He is not one of those Christian celebrities, fake Christian leaders and teachers, who insist that there is no such thing as a Christian culture, or Christian government, or Christian political action. He believes that the Gospel applies to those areas of man’s life and actions too.
And for that, he is branded as “not balanced” by his critics.
I know his detractors too. They seldom teach beyond a small set of three or four topics, mainly emotionally charged or intellectually obscure. Personal piety, ecclesiology, and what they call “the Gospel,” which is the simple proposition that Jesus came to die for our sins. (The idea that the Gospel includes much more than that, and that it is a power for salvation of the whole world is way beyond their limited understanding of it.) Sometimes family, and it only in the context of husband-wife and parents-children relationship; Biblical prerogatives of the family like work, economics, education, welfare, inheritance issues etc. are not mentioned. A multitude of topics is left outside of their preaching and teaching: economics, civil government, politics, money, education, culture, law, history, science, social studies, etc. Because their preaching and teaching is limited to a few topics and propositions, they are trying to stretch their preaching and teaching to fill their courses and lectures and sermons, repeating the same things over and over again, and engaging in irrelevant elaboration on minutest details of obscure theological or literary points; or resort to hollow moralisms in the area of ethics and practical living.
But my friend is branded as “not balanced” while they believe themselves to be “balanced” in their preaching and teaching.
How did we get to this point? How did we allow those ministers of the Gospel who diligently work to apply the Gospel to every area of life to be branded as “not balanced” while elevating as celebrities those that say that there is no such thing as Christian culture, or Christian civil government, or Christian economics? How did we allow the idea that Christ rules in every area of life and therefore His Law must be the law of the land in every area of life, to be branded as “triumphalism” and “transformationism” and other derogatory names; while the closing of the Christian mind and the shrinking of the Christian religion to matters of personal piety only is considered “true Christianity”?
What would we call those Christians who fought and built this nation 200 years ago, who believed that religious liberty could not be separated from economic and social liberty? What would we say to John Witherspoon, the spiritual father and guide of almost all Founding Fathers, who in 1774 said the following:
There is not a single instance in history, in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire. If therefore we yield up our temporal property, we at the same time deliver the conscience into bondage. . . .
Witherspoon was openly calling his fellow Americans to rise and defend their political, economic, and social liberties. Was he “not balanced”? My friend’s detractors, having the luxury of living in the nation founded by those earlier Christians, with liberty and justice for all, would have branded Witherspoon too if he were alive today.
What would we say to Calvin, and the Dutch Calvinists of the 16th and the 17th centuries, and the English Puritans, and the Scottish Covenanters? They were all committed to build a City on a Hill, societies that were in every way obedient to Christ and His Law, including law, civil government, and politics. Because of their work and efforts we can have the United States today; and because of their writings we can talk about such values like individual liberty, economic liberty, equality before the law, privacy, immunity, etc. Again, my friend’s detractors, having the luxury of living in a world heavily influenced and built upon those ideas, would have branded Calvin and those earlier Reformed Christians as “not balanced.”
What would we say to the Christians and church leaders in the 12th and the 13th centuries who patiently and systematically worked to eradicate the old pagan tribal laws and customs of the Romans, Greeks, Celts, and Saxons, and replace them with the canon law of the church? Under the old pagan laws, women were considered less than human and couldn’t inherit; and also, under the old pagan laws, there was still slavery in Europe in some places. The church’s canon law destroyed slavery and limited the power of kings and barons over their subjects. And what would we say to the bishops who drafted Magna Carta and forced King John to sign it, thus laying the foundation for the liberty and justice for all we enjoy today? Would we say they were “not balanced” to involve in such activity to protect life, liberty, and property?
What would we say to Bishop Ambrose when he excommunicated Emperor Theodosius, and when the Emperor responded in anger that he was coming to seize his church, Ambrose’s words thundered throughout the ancient world:
You have no right whatsoever to enter the house of a common man; what makes you believe you can enter the house of God?
Or what would we say to Augustine who declared that “no republic is properly constituted save the republic whose Founder and Ruler is Jesus Christ,” and then told a young ruler, “if your government doesn’t have for its ultimate goal the worship of God, then the welfare of the people is not true welfare”?
We have lost our way as a church. We call good evil and evil good. We elevate for celebrities those that keep us in ignorance concerning the true extent of the Gospel, lulling our consciences by telling us that “there is no such thing as Christian culture or government.” We call those preachers that preach and apply the whole counsel of God “not balanced”; and we praise and honor those that pick and choose what in the Bible they will teach. We have limited Christ’s power and Crown rights to a ghetto, and we have left the world to His enemies; and we even brag about it as if it is some lofty example of piousness.
And then we wonder why we are losing our children, and why the world is getting more and more anti-Christian, and why our rulers are more open in their rebellion and sin and injustice.
And we have good theological excuses for it.
It’s time to change that. It’s time to call good good, and evil evil. And listen to the true balanced preachers like my friend. And send his critics to where they belong: the garbage heap of history.