Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Theologies of Glory I: Kingdom Confusion

Luke 20:25

Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God
what is God's.

"Whether the Church tries to rule the culture or form a culture of its
own, sin runs too deep. Christian monarchies succumb to corruption.
Christian communes dissolve due to jealousy, personality conflicts,
and overt sin. No one, including Christians, can live a perfectly moral life,
much less force anyone else to. And on this fact, all attempts to enshrine a
perfectly Christian culture founder.

Whether preaching the need to conform to society, reform it, or separate
from it, all of these options are the theologies of Law, not Gospel.
They reduce Christianity to rules, behaviour, and codes of conduct -
neglecting the fact that human beings are in such bondage to sin that
they cannot fulfill the Law. More profoundly, they neglect the fact that
Christianity is about God's grace, the atonement of Christ, and the
forgiveness of sins. Put another way, in their ambitious kingdom-building,
they exhibit the theology of glory rather than the theology of the cross."

(Gene Edward Veith, The Spirituality of the Cross, p.122-123)

False teaching is always looking for another way to build the kingdom of God aside from the gospel of Christ's death and resurrection. Focusing not on our Lord's efforts but on our works by which we build moral ladders believing they will take us to God or earn enough favour as to bring God down to us. In the Apostle Paul's day it was the super-apostles subverting the churches he built with a gospel of works (namely circumcision) distracting them from Christ's grace. In Martin Luther's time, the papists lavished in their Holy Roman Empire supporting a Pope who claimed divine rights for himself to "enthrone and depose kings, regulate secular dominions"; and who wanted his articles and laws to be made equal to Scripture (The Book of Concord, "The Power and Primacy of the Pope", p. 421-22).

Today within the New Apostolic Reformation, founded by Peter Wagner, the Seven Mountains Mandate (see video) attempts to build God's kingdom apart from the gospel, by usurping the secular and cultural realms of Caesar, attempting to re-Christianise those secular elements of our culture (media, education, economics, government) which were never entirely Christian to begin with. In order to bring the earthly kingdoms of the world under the Church's direct power and influence.

This teaching is based on a logical fallacy - that our spiritual warfare is founded on our influence in the culture, on essentially creating a theocracy to make America and other nations more moral, whilst leaving unbelievers dead in their sins and trespasses. Social transformation is a worthy goal but to neglect the pronouncement of the forgiveness of sins, repentance and faith in Christ alone, as the means by which we enter God's kingdom is Christless Christianity. It is to make the Church the head rather than Christ, when we should be the tail following the teachings of the Holy Spirit. It is to put the emphasis on the political and social activism of the Church rather than on Christ's substitutionary atonement to save every tribe, tongue and nation. As if the Church could build heaven here on earth by human hands, thereby losing our gospel focus and becoming another worldly institution with dreams of social and theological utopia.

"Human societies and governments are intrinsically limited, prone to fail,
and tainted by sin. They are realms of human and divine service, but they
can never be heaven. The only way to heaven is the cross of Jesus Christ.

The Church does not depend on power, social prestige, rhetorical
manipulation, or human-designed programs. All it has are the Word and
Sacraments, which, though they seem weak to the world and to all theologies
of glory, in fact carry the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit."

(Gene Edward Veith, The Spirituality of The Cross, p.131)

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