Finally Time to Re-Think Establishment Principle

Barna Report conducted a study of Christianity in Scotland and the results have some discouraged even if not surprised:

31% say Scotland is a Christian nation

52% identify as Christian – although 70% of them don’t believe the basics of Christian doctrine

17% of Scots claim to be born again Christians…1 in every six is a born again Christian- committed to Christ. “The presence of more than 800,000 Scots—17 percent of the population—who report they have confessed Jesus as Saviour and have made a commitment to him that is still important in their life today—even though nearly half of them do not currently attend church”

17% of Scots regard the bible as totally accurate or authoritative.

24% of 18-24 year olds do. 23% of young 18-24s say that faith has changed their lives, as compared with 12% of all adults.

One in 8 Scots attend church once a month – i.e. they are practicing Christians but only half of those say their faith has transformed their lives – which surely indicates that they should be called ‘churchgoers’ rather than Christians. If following Christ doesn’t change your life then what does?!

David Robertson blames the churches of Scotland for this state as much as any other factors:

Something is missing. I am trying to work out what that is, and I am not clear yet…but let me have a go. Strangely enough I think it is because they seem very inward looking and are more about transforming the Church than transforming Scotland. I guess that if the Church is transformed then it will have a transformational effect upon the whole country. But I would love to have added to the nine points education, biblical ecclesiology, prophetic preaching, mercy ministries, creative arts and perhaps above all, repentance.

Scotland is in the state it is in, not because of the ‘world’ or the culture…we are in the state we are in because of the Church. We need to repent of our lukewarmness, unbelief, hypocrisy, lack of zeal and lovelessness. We need to realize that we cannot do or say anything that will fundamentally change the situation. Without the Spirit of Christ we are lost. We can write Ichabod over our nation. But we are promised the Spirit of Christ. There is hope: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

What also may be missing is an attachment by Scottish Presbyterians to the Establishment Principle (see point 10), the idea that the state has a duty to promote the true religion both through churches and schools. As most people who study the evangelization of Europe know, the way to get a people to “convert” was to make the king a Christian. From there the rest follows. Peter Leithart thinks the same dynamic is at work in Africa (he quotes Andrew Walls):

Religion was always in Igboland directed to the acquisition of power; the gods were followed in as far as they provided it. So the combination of military defeat by the British, the desirable goods and capabilities in the power of the whites; and the association of all this with the power of the book now on offer to them declared the inferiority of the traditional religious channels. There was every religious reason to abandon them.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as if the world of the voluntary church that we have in the United States will make the rest of the world properly blessed. We have as much superficial Christianity in the United States as other parts of the world have serious resistance to belief.

But if you want to hurt the cause of Christ, it sure seems to me that identifying it with the political establishment is a long term losing proposition. Does anyone in the United States take public education seriously? And these teachers and principles are only subject to local governments. Imagine tying them directly to the feds and see conservatives, libertarians, and Christians flock to the private and home schools.

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25 thoughts on “Finally Time to Re-Think Establishment Principle

  1. Mike Horton: “To be claimed as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. How can they fall under the curses of a covenant to which they didn’t belong? ”
    http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/kingdom-through-covenant-a-review-by-michael-horton/

    Augustine: The field is the world, and the world is the church. Compel them to come into the covenant!

    sectarian antinomian promoters of a secular state—: The earth is the Lord’s, and only the Lord can give life or compel in regards to the first table

    Augustine—We bring both wheat and tares into the broad church, and the Lord in the end will show the difference.

    sectarian antinomian promoters of a secular state– The field is the world, and the church is NOT the world. The church is not even our children, unless the Lord who gave us our children by generation gives them to Jesus by regeneration.

    Augustine: But original sin is removed, and regeneration given by infant baptism.

    sectarian antinomian promoters of separation between a secular state and churches— We trust neither ourselves nor your water

    Augustine: But the church needs the power of the keys, to bring you in against your will, and to put you out as God wills.

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  2. “But if Christian freedom is principally about freedom from the penalty of sin and eternal punishment, if it is a spiritual as opposed to a political reality, and if it is something enjoyed as much by Christians in a liberal democracy as by believers once persecuted by Roman emperors, why all the fuss about the infringement of religious liberty?”

    D.G.Hart, A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State

    Crawford Gribben— “Rutherford’s Free Disputation, set in the context of its times, challenges any idea that the modern, politically passive Presbyterian main- stream can be identified either with the theology of the Westminster Confession or that of its most influential divines. Rutherford’s commitment to shaping an entirely Presbyterian world, where public deviations from orthodox faith or practice should be met with the most severe of legal consequences, is a world away from the political complacency of modern evangelicalism…

    Gribben–“It is certainly true that we cannot simply read the Confession as a summary statement retaining the unqualified approval of all those who participated in its negotiation. The final text of the Confession was “a consensus statement, broad enough to be agreed with by Divines who held somewhat different views of the contemporary applications of the Mosaic judicial laws.” Rutherford seems to stand at one extreme of the Assembly’s range of opinions, arguing, with the apparent approval of the Commission of the Kirk’s General Assembly, that the OT judicial laws ought indeed to be the basis of the Presbyterian state for which they were working.”

    Gribbon–It is important to realize that Rutherford’s theonomic opinions were shared by many puritans who could not have endorsed his narrow ecclesiastical ambitions. Even those who favored a broader toleration of those orthodox Calvinists outside the Presbyterian system looked to the OT judicial laws as their program of action. Cromwell’s Rump Parliament established the death penalty for incest, adultery, and blasphemy.’” The Fifth Monarchist radicals were famous exponents of a Hebraic legal renaissance.

    Gribbon– “The doctrine of the “two kingdoms,” where church and state operated independently but with mutual reliance on the law of God, did not at all favor a religiously neutral state. Thus the Confession charged the state with the highest of responsibilities: “The Civil Magistrate. . . hath Authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that Unity and Peace be preserved in the Church, that the Truth of God be kept pure, and that all Blasphemies and Heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in Worship and Discipline prevented, or reformed; and all the Ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed” (WCF 23.3). (Crawford Gribben, “Samuel Rutherford and Freedom of Conscience,” Westminster Theological Journal, 2009, 372-73)

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  3. Your point is correct, but as usual you shot in the exactly wrong direction, in the direction of conservatism and therefore orthodoxy. The Church of Scotland just went gay. As with the American Protestant mainline, by becoming indistinguishable from left-wing politics except for the holidays, it’s made itself irrelevant.

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  4. Better to keep working in the direction of conservatism/orthodoxy than to waste time trying to convince unregenerate liberals of their errors. Same goes for papacy chumps.

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  5. D. G. Hart
    Posted September 28, 2015 at 7:54 pm | Permalink
    vd, t, “by becoming indistinguishable from left-wing politics except for the holidays, it’s made itself irrelevant”

    Works for Pope Francis too. Brilliant!

    Could be, Butch. Let’s see. Nobody’s talking about the sex abuse scandals anymore. Job One of his papacy, accomplished. The enemies of organized religion [and religion in general] are on the left, not the right. Keep your friends close, your enemies even closer.

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  6. vd, t, so if it’s not in the news, it’s not true? So much for speaking truth to power.

    And in case you haven’t heard, Pope Francis — get this — is opposed to organized religion:

    But the temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God, who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike (Matthew 5:45), bypassing bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles, threatens the authenticity of faith. Hence it must be vigorously rejected

    Which is good for you since you have trouble staying within the lines (read going to Mass).

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  7. D. G. Hart
    Posted September 28, 2015 at 9:17 pm | Permalink
    vd, t, so if it’s not in the news, it’s not true? So much for speaking truth to power.

    And in case you haven’t heard, Pope Francis — get this — is opposed to organized religion:

    But the temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God, who sends rain on the

    Whatever you say, Uncle Screwtape, whatever you say.

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  8. Overall right on.

    But this … come on!

    “Does anyone in the United States take public education seriously? ”

    Does anyone not think public ed has had a profound impact?! As for long-range harmful effects, who cares? I’l settle for so good effects even if they are short term. Right now I see neither short- or-long.

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  9. I think Robertson makes an excellent point in complaining about the Church in Scotland being inward looking. It is a point he could make about many conservative churches here as well.

    At the same time, D.G.’s point about hurting the cause of Christ by associating it with a political establishment is just as valid.

    The issue becomes creating a hybrid where these two points made by Robertson and D.G. are combined.

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  10. Barna Report study: “52% identify as Christian – although 70% of them don’t believe the basics of Christian doctrine…17% of Scots claim to be born again Christians”

    The only kind of Christian there is, is a born again Christian.

    DG: “But if you want to hurt the cause of Christ”…..

    mainly: don’t believe the basics of Christian doctrine

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  11. Huh, guys? Not sure what you are saying, so giving the benefit, I’ll just say I’m not sure what you are getting at. I didn’t think that would be a controversial statement for us believers, but simply affirmation of what we fundamentally believe. Guess not?

    anyway, just another morning at OL where we see if we can elevate ourselves by putting another down?

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  12. Ali, are you saying the only kind of believers are those who are born from above? Seems redundant. But what about baptized but not as yet professing children of believers or nominal Christians (those who identify as Christian but deny basic doctrines), i.e. those not born from above? Are you saying they don’t exist? I see them all the time, and evidently Scotland has quite a few.

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  13. Born again and evangelical would probably be rejected for faith by most P&R if polled by someone they don’t trust in the slightest, like Barna.

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  14. Was called up one time by a major polling conglomerate to see if i would sign up for elections.

    I told them I would be voting Conservative in every election for the next hundred years, and that I would definitely be voting.

    They told me that I wasn’t the kind of voting pattern they were looking for and hung up.

    So they basically fix the poll to their required results in the first place.

    I wouldn’t give an opinion to a pollster on my religious views and cannot believe that any adult without severed problems would do so unless it was mandatory or for a little coffee $$$.

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  15. Zrim – Are the categories true Christians and not true Christians?
    Is this enough to answer you? I think the program is God’s and He in charge of the salvation program and He saves people.

    But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12 -13 : you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, 1 Peter 1:23

    How about you – what do you believe?

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  16. kent
    Posted September 29, 2015 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
    Was called up one time by a major polling conglomerate to see if i would sign up for elections.

    I told them I would be voting Conservative in every election for the next hundred years, and that I would definitely be voting.

    They told me that I wasn’t the kind of voting pattern they were looking for and hung up.

    So they basically fix the poll to their required results in the first place.

    I wouldn’t give an opinion to a pollster on my religious views and cannot believe that any adult without severed problems would do so unless it was mandatory or for a little coffee $$$.

    Excellent points.

    In particular, many people seem to be afraid to tell pollsters their real politically incorrect opinions.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/418172/conservative-voters-give-pollsters-politically-correct-answers-and-then-they-vote

    Although if they ever ask me if Obama’s the antichrist, I’ll ask them to put me down for “strongly agree.”

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  17. Ali, I believe Jesus:

    He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

    Is revivalism not content in its zeal to make much ado about true and false Christians?

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  18. Do those who ask for a profession of faith from one parent before watering an infant make much ado about true and false Christians? Since we can’t know for sure, why bother with any kind of professions or discipline?

    36 Then He dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached Him and said, “Explain the parable of the weeds in the field to us.” 37 He replied: “The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 THE FIELD IS THE WORLD; and the good seed—these are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 Therefore, just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.

    http://www.the-highway.com/articleApr06.html

    SOLA ECCLESIA, by Michael J. Glodo The person who says, “I’m a member of the Kingdom of God, not organized religion” is inherently contradictory. How do we KNOW THAT SUCH A PERSON IS TRULY CONVERTED? For that matter, how does he or she know? They have refused Christ’s appointed administration of his Kingdom and, thus, stand apart from his kingship. For this reason, one cannot possess assurance of salvation indefinitely if he remains outside of the Church . He may have saving faith, but have none of Christ’s means of ASSURING HIM OF IT. Paul wrote, “But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother” (Galatians 4:26, Cyprian wrote, “No one has God as his father without the Church as his mother.”

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  19. Zrim: Is revivalism not content in its zeal to make much ado about true and false Christians?

    Who was talking about revivalism? But since you are, aren’t you the guys who love to sing the psalms, which talks about ‘reviving’ a lot

    Zrim: “make much ado about true and false Christians?”
    I think you might be deflecting, since what you were asking about was the definition of a Christian. But too, since you believe Jesus, good passage you reference above, but also His gives His whole counsel – He does talk a lot about false believers, most specifically false prophets/teachers, in nearly every bible book – His summation: Beware. How do we beware – know His truth.

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