Yet further indications of the desire for Christendom, but at least this rendition recognizes that the desire for a comprehensive Christianity can turn into totalitarianism (something that neo-Calvinist promoters of a cosmic Christ rarely possess):
For more than 1500 years the Church was a major influence on Western politics. That is how it should be. Ultimate standards matter, and if the Church doesn’t explain what they are and how to apply them someone else will. It’s not an improvement when her authority gives way to that of journalists, advertisers, TV producers, cultural entrepreneurs, and “ethicists.”
That’s what has happened, though. Catholic social doctrine and the political views of the hierarchy have become a minor consideration even for the great majority of Catholics, who vote as other people do and in response to the same concerns. As a result, the political influence of the Church is gone except in special situations like communist Poland, where she served as a focus of national resistance to foreign domination.
Elsewhere, and especially in the West, she seems to have less and less power of leadership or even resistance. She feels ever less entitled to give offense, and can’t proclaim her teachings without doing so, so she falls silent. Nonetheless, she still wants to play a public role, so she has tried to stay in the game by cooperating with more influential players and identifying herself with their projects. Thus, Church leaders have lined up behind causes such as the UN, the EU, various social welfare schemes, relaxation of restrictions on immigration, and so on. The “servant church” has become a servant of others’ causes.
In some ways there appears to be a solid basis for such cooperation. Both the Church and the main tendencies of modern secular politics want a society that brings humanity into a coherent whole that eliminates conflict, fosters cooperation, and is concerned for the worldly needs of each member. So why shouldn’t everyone join together to bring that about?
The problem is that evil systems also share those goals. The communists supported them, the rulers of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World supported them, and ISIS supports them. Basic principles matter, man does not live by bread alone, and the Church should be very careful when she gives her support to political projects whose leaders are not guided by a Catholic or even humane vision. We need to think politically, and ask who is being empowered and what system of things we are helping to bring into existence.
Politics today is extremely ambitious. The abolition of transcendent standards in favor of technology and human will give it an ultimate significance it never had in the past. Projects such as the EU and Obamacare are part of a movement of comprehensive social reconstruction—“Hope and Change”—that serves our rulers as a religion. That movement is based on an understanding of man and the world that rejects human nature, natural law, and any transcendent standard in favor of Choice, otherwise known as the Triumph of the Will.
The result is that we live in a world that is evolving less toward the Cosmic Christ than the Worldly Antichrist.
But again, where was the notion that Christians should play a role in government before the emperor converted (how convenient, a Christian ruler and now Christians start talking about Christian society)? You certainly don’t find it in the New Testament unless you use fancy pants exegesis that lets today’s readers think they know what the original readers understood in the New Testament.
12 thoughts on “Before Constantine?”
If you wanted “pre-colonial” theology, then you needed to read Leithart.
The slippery slope begins when you think you are the “them” when Romans 13 says “you submit to them”.
The slide continues when you think you are the good Samaritan and not the guy in the ditch.
Perhaps, one reason why you don’t find it is the difference in contexts that exists between now and yesteryear. Christianity was just being introduced to the world in the first century back then. Does that mean that no examples for involvement or no direct teaching for involvement tells us that being involved is against God’s Word? Weren’t the OT prophets involved?
In addition, a great concern for the writers of the epistles was whether we were bringing honor to Christ and the Gospel. So how is Christ and the Gospel regarded by people when the Church is silent against corporate/group evil? And what about the change in political structures? Don’t democratic structures make all of us more responsible for the actions/inactions of our government?
What I like about the 2K position is that, for the most part, it doesn’t seek a privileged position for Christianity in society. NeoCalvinists need to learn from that. But in an effort to avoid that privileged position, it has also silenced the Church’s prophetic call and that doesn’t bring honor to the Gospel. And this idea that explicit statements/examples from the NT must be the only basis justifying fulfilling that prophetic call is nothing more than expanding the Regulative principle to all of life and that is regardless of the contextual differences between now and then.
I really like what Martin Luther King Jr said in speaking against the Vietnam War:
The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just
If we use a madlib in place of the word ‘Western,’ we would see that we will either choose humility by learning to or learning from others or we will choose arrogance by claiming only our theological/political/and whatever else camp has something to teach.
Good bread and butter 2k thinking, as always.
Enjoy worship tomorrow, my brothers of OL.
Today Chicago Catholics appear to be bypassing mass celebrations to go out and block traffic. Yeah, nothing signifies the rule of Christ like inconveniencing innocent people who simply happen to be in the road. The de facto mouthpiece of the Catholic Church in Chicago, Fr. Michael Pfleger, was on the news this morning to announce it.
And speaking of fancy-pants exegesis…
Even if such exegesis would not compel the syncretistic approach to politics advocated by the Kuyperians. Rather, it would a lot more like that historically advocated by the Scottish Covenanters.
On Twitter this morning:
Chicago Sun-Times retweeted
Brian Slodysko @BrianSlodysko 3m3 minutes ago
Father Pfleger is interrupting mass to shut down 79th and Racine.
In the Peace of Che Guevara, of course.
I’m awfully fond of Fr. Pleger. He’s all the glories of the Romish folly embodied in one man. If you want to know what the logical conclusion of RCC theology is, look no further than Fr. Pfleger.
If we didn’t have him we would certainly need to invent him.
We have a former priest in Central Iowa, Frank Cordaro, who is always getting arrested for this or that protest.
At least these men of action are an alternative to the arid, egghead Catholicism of the Callers.
Erik, I call the DG vs The Cat
holica Calvinist twitter civil war, except of course it’s not a civil war because BC indeed left us, as did Jason. Jason’s a fan of these kind of bru ha ha’s, his Steinbeck blog and drunk one make it clear. Enough from my fingers, fellow accountant. Enjoy twitter, yo.
Give ’em time. They’ll be out blocking traffic soon, once they realize that the Catholic church they joined disappeared from the globe about 700 years ago.
good riff, B.
Cosmic Social Gospel:
I wonder if Bryan will feel the unity — nay the solidarity — and sign the Statement of his fellow Roman Catholic theologians in the United States.