Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Election 2008: Theologizing and strategerizing (Part One)

All right, we've seen and further reflected on the appropriateness of taking time to mourn and lament over our great nation in this troubling hour. But now let's think, analyze, theologize, strategerize.

We shall ask and mull over five questions:
  1. Where are we?
  2. Where was (and is) God?
  3. So...everything's OK, then, and we should relax?
  4. How did we get here?
  5. What do we do now?
I'll look at questions 1-3 in this post, and then (Lord willing) questions 4-5 as the conclusion.

Comments will be closed for this post and the next, open for Part Two Three.

Where are we?
Tho sum up over a month's worth of posts, the outcome of our last election was disgraceful in many regards, with ominous implications. Voters evidently made their decisions largely on emotion, image, and skin-color. That's not a good thing, and we should admit it.

Almost more worrisome are the flood of professed evangelicals of the Kent Brockman persuasion, patting hands and heads and assuring everyone that it wasn't a bad thing to elect the eminently-unaccomplished 99th most junior member of the Senate as President — a man whose background remains a muddy enigma except that we know Obama allied himself with terrorists, Marxists, and racists, that he and his family enthusiastically supported a hatemongering ministry for twenty years, and that he never once stood up against the leftmost fringe of his party. All that, plus we know that President-elect Barack Obama proudly puts the radicalization of abortion at the top of his agenda.

So when we're told "We don't know whether he'll be a bad president" — well yes, of course, we really do. If Obama keeps his first promise, he's a bad president. If all Obama's bad promises were deliberate lies intended to deceive the populace, he's a dishonest president. Our brightest hope is that President Obama will either break many of candidate Obama's promises, or that he will find himself prevented from fulfilling them.

Where was (and is) God?
God is, of course, where He has always been: He is enthroned in the heavens as king forever (Psalm 9:7; 29:10; 102:12; 123:1). His providential kingdom rules over all Psalm 103:19), and there is none — none! — who can stay His hand or thwart His purposes (Daniel 4:35). He has established all authority in general, and the bearers of authority in particular (Romans 13:1-7). It is particularly germane for us to note that He "rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men" (Daniel 4:17). Indeed He does.

So even in the situation of a disgraceful turn of events as this election, God remains sovereign. No part of it occurred apart from His eternal and sovereign decree (Ephesians 1:11). God's purposes for believers, in particular, are absolutely undefeatable. All things work together for their eternal good, and they are certain to spend eternity with Him in glory — for no created thing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:28-39). We will see His face, and serve Him forever (Revelation 22:4).

So... everything's OK, then, and we should "just relax"?
Sure, if you want to disgrace the name of Christ in general, and Calvinism in particular, as well as fail your generation and your children.

Let's think for a moment, friends. Is that OK? While everyone else is emoting, singing kum-ba-ya, and welcoming our insect overlords, can we think?

God is sovereign, so we shouldn't be alarmed and energized and engaged? Where does that come from?

Look, everything I just said? All that about God's sovereignty? It is true in EVERY situation, 24/7/365. Have you thought about that?

When you get a headache, it was God's sovereign decree that you get a headache. But do you not take Ibuprofen? When some idiot in a white car cuts in front of you without signaling, that was God's will. But don't you slam on your brakes and honk? When the cashier short-changes you, that was God's sovereign will, too — but don't you correct him, and request correct change? When you get a package with a damaged item, that too was God's sovereign will. But don't you return it, and demand a refund?

It is so in small things; it is so in larger events.

What that means is that when you hear a scream from your bedroom, and a rapist is assaulting your wife, that is God's sovereign decree.

It is true when you feel your child's forehead, and it's hotter than a frying pan, that is God's sovereign decree.

It is true when you see smoke coming from the kitchen, and you know it's not just your son making toast again, that is God's sovereign decree.

It is true when you notice a lump that just seems to get bigger and bigger, and not go away, that is God's sovereign decree.

It is true when members of the church you pastor starts passing The Shack around, or Your Best Life, Now!, or A Generous Orthodoxy, that is God's sovereign decree.

In all those situations, in every situation, God is sovereign, wise, and good, and in full control.

Ah, but we? What is our part? Passive, trusting resignation to the inevitable? Is that a godly, wise, Biblical response?

Well, Paul believed all those things. When he heard about the incursion of false doctrine in Galatia, did he say "Oh well, we must simply pray and trust God"? Did he tell Titus and Timothy, "False teachers will try to infest your churches like termites — but oh well! God is sovereign! Just pray and trust and wait on God!"?

In fact, if Paul was as the super-Calvinists, he would not have highly praised Timothy for being "torn up with anxiety" (Philippians 2:20) over the churches. No, he would have rebuked Timothy, told him to take a chill pill, because God is sovereign, doncha know, and it will all work out.

Proactive response to carping. Now, I wish I could believe it wouldn't be necessary to anticipate a dodge here... but sadly, I can't.

Someone would pop off, "But those are all churches, and about doctrine. This is about neither!"

Since nobody said it yet, I can say, without being rude, that that is a singularly dense response. What is the difference? Is God sovereign in one realm, but not another? If a pastor must be hands-on and engaged over his charge, then does the same principle not apply for a parent, a spouse, a friend, an employee... a citizen?

After all, we all are to seek to serve and glorify God in all walks of life, are we not (1 Corinthians 10:31)? It is true, is it not, that in God's eyes there are no secular ghettoes roped off from His concern (Psalm 24:1)? Are we not always to seek to do good, not only to fellow-Christians, but also to all men (Jeremiah 29:1-9; Galatians 6:10)?

To apply the truth of God's sovereignty in such a way as to become a little nodding China doll, an easily-assimilated little Borgling, is to pervert the truth so badly as to bring shame on it and God. We should rather hear that book written against such a situation as ours, the book of Esther. As in our day, in Esther's day there were no miracles, there were no prophets. All believers had was the word of God. God himself was deus absconditus at this moment.

So what did Mordecai tell Esther when crisis struck? Did he say, "Oh well. Yahweh is king. He'll do... whatever"? No. You know what he said: "Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"(Esther 4:14b) He called Esther to do what she could. And she did. And God used her wise, considered, sacrificial, risky actions to preserve His people alive and avert disaster from them.

A robust, Biblical faith in the total sovereignty of God is hard enough for some people to grasp, without its advocates acting like goofy children and bringing it shame.

This way to Part Two.

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