Tuesday, March 14, 2006

My chief worry about Iraq

As I read about police in Iraq finding 87 bodies from execution-style slayings in the last 24 hours, I've decided the share the concern that's been nagging at me since we liberated Iraq. (Disclaimer: it's an Associated Press story, so it might be totally wrong; but no one denies that there has been a steady drone of violence and mayhem here and there in Iraq.)

Most of the objections to the war strike me as simply silly, childish, or deliberately perverse. However there is one reservation I don't recall ever hearing, and it is the one that keeps troubling me.

It's doctrinal. Specifically, it's with President Bush's theology.

Let me hasten to say that I've no personal doubt that the man is a Christian. But he's a Methodist Christian. While that can mean a lot of things today, in the President's case, it seems to mean at least one troubling thing.

President Bush doesn't seem to grasp the nature of man Biblically. He speaks of the human spirit's universal longing for freedom. He seemed to believe that if we just were to take Saddam Hussein's boot of off the Iraqi people's necks, all would be well. After all, Islam is a religion of peace -- President Bush told us.

I'm no expert on Islam, but I do know a bit about the human heart. Brother Bush's notions about the human heart seem to reflect a liberal, slushy optimism, rather than open-eyed, steely Biblical realism. Left to himself, man will not find the right way -- he will go astray (Psalm 10:2-3; Romans 3:10-19). People are not innocent, let alone good at heart; they're dead in sin, and getting deader (Ephesians 2:1f.). Without Biblical revelation, a people will run wild (Proverbs 29:18, ESV or HCSB).

That is what we see in Iraq, and while I hope and pray for better, I know no reason to expect it.

But democracy worked in America, didn't it?

Well, no. Democracy was the last thing the Founding Fathers wanted. They wanted to create a Republic. Most of the Signers were Biblical Christians, and all of the signers had great respect for the Bible. They knew that the tendency of the human heart is to evil, it is to lust for power and possession, it is to tyranny. They had the moral framework to build a nation of liberty within law, with checks and balances built in, informed by a Biblical worldview and (specifically) a Biblical anthropology.

John Adams famously and well said:
[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
Make no mistake: to Adams, "morality" would be Christian morality, and religion would be the Christian religion.

This foundation is why America has stood for two centuries. To the degree that it has drifted and defected from that original informing Biblical vision, to that degree it is slip-sliding towards tyranny and a cycle of slavery again.

So where is that foundation in Iraq? Can a democracy be built and thrive that is not built on that Biblical anthropology? Can freedom function and thrive without that Biblical framework? Is "freedom" the be-all and end-all, and if they're free, we're done?

I don't think so.

Those are my abiding worries.

Now, I'll say this: if freedom in Iraq means Christians are free to proclaim Jesus, and if the Gospel spreads and prevails, then their freedom will really mean something.

Bush is reputedly quite the poker player. I wouldn't assume that he doesn't have this very thing in the back of his mind.

It's what comes out of his mouth that keeps me worried.


Highland Host said...

More Methodists should read Wesley on Original Sin. It would give them a Biblical view, rather than the sort of semi-pelagian rubbish that five-point Arminians are prone to.

Wesley was, of course, a four-point Arminian. He accepted Total Depravity.
I know because, as a sensible, non-bigotted Calvinist, I read Wesley, and I agree with him about 90% of the time.

DJP said...

No doubt things would be galactically different if Lutherans read more Luther, and Methodists more Wesley, and Presbyterians more Knox....

Dan B. said...

The Iraq war is certainly a messy thing, for sure. I admire the President's resolve to see it through, though I share your skepticism about the Bush's optimism.

I think that in order to wage the war, he has to show more optimism vocally (or verbally?) than perhaps he actually has (as a matter of policy), since the media certainly doesn't give him a break with their coverage of it (not that the bombings don't happen, but there is much going on that is GOOD that never gets reported).

However, it doesn't mean that we look at the world through rose-colored glasses. I mean, really, you're essentially changing the mindframe of a culture, not just "creating a democracy."

Great post.

Gordon said...

Good article. While our president has great intentions (and I honestly believe that) I think he is also being over-optimistic about a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian tension as well. The Bible says those two factions will be in conflict until Jesus comes back.

Chuck said...

This may make me unpopular, but did not Bush make some statements to the effect of 'we Christians worship and serve the same God as the Muslims, just in a different way'? It could be hearsay I guess, but it was presented to me as less of a 'Allah means God in Arabic' and more of a 'different sides of the same mountain' kind of comment. Just wondered if anyone else had heard those comments or could locate the.

DJP said...

Chuck: I shun you!

Seriously, and sadly, you're right. He's reported as saying, "I believe we worship the same God." Check it here and here.

Needless to say, here's another place where he's incorrect. I'm also concerned that his beliefs do not seem to have had any impact on his wife or daughters -- though, of course, I know enough from the Bible to know that none controls another's heart, and the best preachers can have the poorest hearers.

Matt Gumm said...

I tried to link, but it didn't work. Anyway, good stuff, particularly the quote from Adams (oh, I wish we could get more of that in our schools these days). My link & thoughts here.