Another King, Another Kingdom, Another Gospel
“ Grace and spiritual blessing be to you and (soul) peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) who gave (yielded) himself up to atone for our sins (and to save and sanctify us) in order to rescue and deliver us from this present wicked age and world order in accordance with the will and purpose and plan of our God and Father – to Him (be ascribed all) the glory through all the ages of the ages and the eternities of the eternities! Amen (so be it).” Gal. 1:1-5
And Jesus repeatedly and expressly charged and admonished them saying, “ Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and the leaven of Herod and the Herodians”. Mark 8:15
The Christians of the first two centuries, specifically, were martyred and persecuted because of their allegiance to only one King and one Kingdom against another, not through protest, but by transcendence. They worshipped a King and a Kingdom, which was transcendent above the nation that they physically dwelt in and were being forcibly persuaded to give absolute allegiance to. In refusing to worship Caesar and refusing to bow to the Roman system, conversely, acknowledging another King – one Jesus, and another Kingdom – the Kingdom of God, they were killed. Jesus himself exclaimed this precedent in His warning about the religious-political order of His day.
“Beware of the leaven of the scribes and Pharisees, beware of the leaven of Herod and the Herodians.”
The scribes and Pharisees representing the bread of hypocritical, self-serving religion; Herod and the Herodians, standing for the contaminating political bread of contemporary social conflict. The political bread being directly associated with the question that the disciples continually posed: “When will you bring the Kingdom? When will the Kingdom come? In other words, when will you overthrow this present order and set up a new theocracy, or at least a truly democratic order?
The Master continually exhorted the disciples, even it seems, rebuked them and told them not to focus so much on the changing of outward events; but to focus on the changing of their inner hearts. They should not be so overwhelmed with the signs of things changing in the political-social systems of the day, but to concentrate on the New Order which was rising up from within their spirits, that would be made completely manifest upon His return and would last forever! He commanded that they should focus on these things and tarry for the Holy Spirit and He would be the constant sign of the Kingdom’s arrival.
Jesus clearly denounced a preoccupation with time keeping and the constant analyzing of world events and agenda, due to the fact, that world events are so transitory, so easily changeable and shift and move with the spirit of the times, priorities and excesses of men and devils. Contrastingly, the agenda of the Kingdom of God is unchangeable, without shadow of turning, unshakable, immovable, and invincible! God is without shadow of turning, changeability! He is constant, He is sure, we can rely on His trustworthiness and integrity. He is not given to every wind of change, nor does he endorse or promote such orientation. He stands outside of time and space, aloof the petty strivings and conflicts of man, in all his smallness and quest through fear, to author his own destiny. He is transcendent and thus victorious! We are hidden in Christ with Him, seated in heavenly places at the right hand of God who rules over the affairs of the universe sovereignly and without apprehension. For He has already fixed a day, in the which, he will justly judge the world, through Jesus Christ, whom He has appointed! Furthermore, He has given us full assurance of this and absolute evidence to all, by raising Jesus from dead!
The Gospel Pure
“I’m surprised and astonished that you are so quickly turning renegade and deserting Him Who invited and called you by the grace (unmerited favor) of Christ (the Messiah) (and that you are transferring your allegiance) to a different (even an opposition) gospel. Not that there is (or could be) any other (genuine Gospel), but
there are (obviously) some who are troubling and disturbing and bewildering you (with a different kind of teaching which they offer as a gospel) and want to pervert and distort the Gospel of Christ (the Messiah) (into something which absolutely is not).
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to and different from that which we preached to you, let him be accursed (anathema, devoted to destruction, doomed to eternal punishment)!
As we said before, so I now say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel different from or contrary to that which you received (from us) let him be accursed (anathema, devoted to destruction, doomed to eternal punishment)!
Now am I trying to win the favor of men, or of God? Do I seek to please men? If I were still seeking popularity with men, I should not be a bondservant of Christ (the Messiah). For I want you to know, brethren, that the Gospel, which was proclaimed and made known by me, is not man’s gospel (a human invention, according to or patterned after any human standard).
For indeed I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but (it came to me) through a (direct) revelation (given) by Jesus Christ (the Messiah).”
Gal 1:6-12 Amplified
The purity of the gospel must be redetermined in this hour!
There has been a mixture of our patriotic ideals and insatiable lust for freedom, liberty and enterprise, according to the flesh. This has colored our gospel and even become part of it, making it an American gospel. The emphasis being on our rights to these temporal pleasures, our rights to these temporal comforts; yes, even our rights to these temporal justices, but, is this what the bible stresses? Is this what our forefathers of the faith and brothers and sisters who have gone before us, living under other political climates, had the opportunity to expect and demand? Accordingly, do our brothers and sisters in other lands, today, have the ability or future prospect of constantly experiencing this? Thus, if we preach an ideal that is not realistic to people within the gospel we present to them, is it a valid gospel? Or, is it a subjective interpretation that actually has its roots in self-preservation and self-fulfillment?
As I mentioned in the first chapter, we owe much of our moral, religious- freedom-oriented foundation in America, to the influence of Christianity passed onto our forefathers, indirectly, through the Reformation. I would also point out, however, that that emphasis, first passed through the filter of the Enlightenment era. The Enlightenment (a philosophical revolution of predominantly French and German humanistic thinkers) espoused and promoted the ultimate Freedom and rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but void of Godly restraint and purely for the discovery and fulfillment of the self. Now, this may have taken on an absolutely different and disastrous result within the French revolution, due to their lack of Reformation foundation. (This argument is brought out very well in the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer’s book entitled: “ How Should We Then Live?”), but, this thinking still had a profound effect on, and played a determinative role in the American Revolution as well.
We in the Church, often stress the emphasis for the freedom of religion, as being one of the most pertinent and driving motivations for the founding of the new world. I believe it was, but again, this was a freedom to embrace and espouse non-religious, humanistic views as well, which in all honesty, is more in keeping with the Deism of our Founding Fathers, than orthodox Christianity. In other words, many of the formers of this country gravitated more toward Enlightenment than orthodox Christian belief and practice. Let us also remember what they associated Christianity with — an apostate, compromised, oppressive, government-ruled and manipulated system of tyrannous hypocrisy. They were not at all familiar with the open, biblically grounded form of born-again Christian doctrine that many of us looking to use them to back our arguments, have and do experience. It was a mixture of biblical principles and humanistic reasoning. Two gods were represented; the God of the Bible and the goddess of Reason and Human License. So, we have seen the reflection of the first, predominantly in the first two centuries of our existence.
Therefore, is it so surprising that we now, see the other god, inherent in the same foundation rearing its ugly head? American Christians, we owe our American heritage just as much to Enlightenment thinkers and philosophers, as we do to Reformation reverends and reformers. The foundation is a mixture of Locke + Lex-Rex, Rousseou + Rutherford – Luther + Calvin, Creed of the Apostles and the Creed of Humanistic Reason, throwing off the chains of restraint. Is this kingdom not, as represented in the Book of Daniel, concerning the final revived Roman empire, a mixture of iron and clay, which will also be smashed by the Stone cut out without hands? After all, we fervently claim we are living in the last days of the final Antichrist system.
My question here however is, have we adopted this mixture as our American Christianity and are we preaching it to the rest of the world, while blind to its full, thus true origins? Therefore, doing the gravest injustice and running contrary to the emphasis that the Master would have us to embrace and demonstrate through our lifestyles as Christians in this fading age. Is our American tradition and heritage of freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, (even though containing healthy and positive elements) not at its very core, dedicated to the self? Self is at its core and perhaps, in trying to preserve this tradition, are we not protecting a self-interest that we feel will be taken away? Sadly then, we would only be left with the pursuit of eternal matters apart from the temporary comfort of fleshly ease.
“ Beware of the leaven of Herod and the Herodians.”
Leaven is not the whole piece of bread, but as the scripture says,
“ A little leaven, leaventh the whole lump”.
I Corinthians. 5:6; Galatians 5:9 Amplified
Leaven is an agent, which pollutes the rest of the bread and makes it impure, it is not the bread itself. The majority of the bread (doctrine) can be whole and unleavened, however, that little bit of leaven, that little trace of the doctrine of Herod and the Herodians (political interest, social bias) pollutes the whole and it becomes ineffective and even poisonous to those who consume it. It may eventually, transform the substance completely and turn it into something else. Another gospel! In my opinion, a major example of a little bit of leaven coming into the lump and leavening it (influencing it) is this all-pervasive emphasis today, on Democracy.
In many ways, democracy has become synonymous, in our minds, with the liberty of the gospel. Somehow, because democracy has given man a level of freedom in the flesh, ease and good government, it has been too closely associated with the message of the gospel, especially in the United States of America. It begins to look like the fight for democracy and capitalism, American government and tradition, is the same, in fact, one with the proclamation of the liberty, which comes from the gospel, and these two become indivisible. The gospel becomes a proclamation of a particular western philosophy, political framework, and way of life, according to the priorities of the flesh. We find ourselves offering a mixed drink, a mingled cocktail, consisting of these two elements – Democracy, and the freedom that the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings to men. Hence, they become indistinguishable and inseparable and in essence, become one proclamation, which I would term the American Gospel.
Could this be perhaps, the chief reason, why Christianity is met with such resistance and disdain in the East? I find it confounding, that in the countries where the gospel initially had its first beginnings and impact 2000 years ago, it is now viewed negatively, as a western creation with oppressive and prejudiced qualities. This attitude persists even in the face of strong national conversion apart from western influence, as well as, indisputable historical data to the contrary. It is most definitely seen as, indivisible from their perspective and whenever they address disapproval of one, it is never void of the other. In my own experience, ministering in eastern countries and even South America.
I have found this to be the general consensus among foreign Christians. This is their first criticism, although grateful, for the generous contribution American Christian television, radio and literature have made to their churches, they often express a confusion in regard to being able to divide between the American flag and the Cross of Calvary. Mostly, it is not overcritical; they just choose to adopt the course of eating the meat and spitting out the bones.
In all fairness, as we mentioned earlier, this did not originate with the dominant American influence on Christianity. There were centuries of Western European crusade, which more than likely laid the seedbed for the East’s intolerance. However, with the incredible advent of U.S. influence upon the world for the last two centuries, paralleled with the absolute decline of Christian ethos in modern Europe, it has developed into a uniquely American phenomenon.
Accordingly, God has truly blessed and prospered the Church in America and caused it to accomplish the most consistent and far reaching missionary activity known to antiquity. For this alone, the Red, White and Blue deserves great praise and admiration and more than likely, despite its excessive vices and departure from its Christian ethos, retains God’s blessing and stayed judgment. For how much longer, is hard to say. We will deal with this in another section.
I’ve Been Here Before
But, what of this preoccupation with national interest and intermingling of religion and patriotism, is it to be found in sacred history? Do we see any trace of this in the Bible? Unequivocally, yes, I believe this is the same spirit that we see manifested in the nation of Israel, at the time of Jesus‘ earthly life and ministry. This is what He referred to as the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod and the Herodians. This tradition originally came from the knowledge of the Torah and submission to the Kingdom of God in the spiritual realm, amongst the Hebrews inhabiting Palestine at that time, as a whole, forming the basis for their moral and devotional life with God privately, However, over time and under oppression from Greek and successively, Roman authority, a constant and subtle compromise and assimilation to the influences of Hellenistic culture and submission to Roman rule materialized, ultimately transforming this belief system into a political doctrine and platform.
Eventually, this perpetuated into a multi-faceted, subversive, yet, capitulating movement, to overthrow the regime, which embraced those things that were rightly viewed as unjust, in light of this revelation. The domination of the Romans, and the injustices that accompanied it, were not just viewed as the present forces of darkness working in the world through human agency. Rather, they became looked at as the hindrance to the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Rome became the direct enemy to the Kingdom, the Nation of Israel, God’s chosen instrument. The controversy, however, became muddled and could no longer be distinguished, between the spiritual state of man and the social state of man, becoming one religio-political argument and agenda. Thus, two extremes introduced themselves. One group absolutely excommunicated itself from the political, social and philosophical system and spirit of the day, making itself a separatist colony. It deemed itself exclusive from world events and social issues, condemning everything secular and non- Hebrew, denouncing the state and its rulers, along with its doctrines and cultural practices. Choosing instead to exalt its own religious traditions and live within the bubble of that inflexible conviction. This first group could be represented in part by the Essenes, whom were primarily pre-Christ, who left the society to go out and form their own colonies, from whose ruins, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered,. This eventually, advanced amongst certain factions, to more aggressive and demonstrative forms such as the Maccabean Revolts.
Then during the life of Christ, there appeared the Zealots, who ran against the very might of Rome, foolishly, in general opinion, being so greatly outnumbered and disadvantaged militarily. This group sought to even utilize John the Baptist and Jesus as conquering Messiahs, who would overthrow the present regime and set up a new just Theocracy. This is the Animal Farm School. (A full argument concerning this is found in my book” Joshua Generation”, in the chapter of the same title.)
Jumping back up to the present, the modern day proponents of this in America could be seen in the Patriot movements and other extreme streams who publish much literature and media products, speaking out very strongly against the government, claiming to possess and even propagating evidence hidden from public scrutiny. (Much of which I believe is accurate.) Some of the ultra–fanatic and fringe elements tragically resort to violent expressions (bombings, open confrontation, stockpiling of weapons etc.,), engaging in militia training and mobilizing against the present government, for the future time when opportunity might avail itself for a possible overthrow. They have removed themselves socially, religiously, culturally and psychologically, from the mass public opinion and sentiment, particularly from the government’s ideology. These are the modern day zealots.
However, I won’t devote much time to this group, because in all reality, they are always a small minority of people, not taken so seriously by the general public, due to their extreme views, which are regarded as separatist and counter-culture. And as the old adage implies:
“You get more with sugar than with salt.”
Also, by and large the outcome of this mentality, when pitted against a truly powerful incumbent empire, almost always meets with embarrassing defeat and devastating slaughter.
Conversely, there was another group who took another route, believing it best to befriend this system and serve it, even to the point of betraying their own people and traditions, in order to gain a voice and position of authority and influence, positioning themselves to be able to infest and overthrow this corrupt system from within and thus set up their own version of a proper and righteous government. This was the modus operandi of the School of the leaven of Herod and the Herodians the leaders of the Pharisee and Sadducee Parties, the Trojan horse Approach.
Herod and the Herodians most definitely took the wiser and safer approach. This required more patience and cunning, but it brought healthier and wealthier results, in the preserving of their comforts, pleasure, luxury and self-interested lifestyle. These intelligent individuals attempted to find common ground with the system and sympathized on certain social and political issues, thus, aligning themselves with the present regime. Therefore, manufacturing a place of lesser, delegated power from within, where they believed they could exact their influence. The philosophy being – if you can’t beat them, join them, then change them, or have them removed by legislative – democratic process. Gain enough of a majority to have your particular brand of religio-political theory endorsed and legislated. After all, this is the strength of the democratic process, is it not; this is what democracy is all about, no? Whether it be in the form of a republic, where there are numerous checks and balances, therefore, taking more endurance and strategy to achieve the majority; or in a more transitory, less structured democracy, like India, where the most influential, financially equipped and strong are able to take power with very little resistance. Either way, the majority rules!
Many would apply this label or description immediately to what is termed, the Religious Right, in America. I won’t make so narrow a judgment here, for, I believe there are many who would fall under this category, who are well-meaning Christian people, who are applying the only means and methods that they understand to be effective. Basically, they are good people with good intentions, but, in all fairness, I would have to say, that there are also good people with good intentions on the
Irreligious Left. Of course, the question arises:
“Just how irreligious is the Irreligious Left, really?”
Bonding or Binding?
Is the Religious Right, or those of such sentiment, wrong in taking this approach, in finding common ground, in aligning themselves with the present ruling parties where it doesn’t directly clash with orthodox beliefs? I guess for me there are just a couple of very important questions. When I align myself with any one specific political or social view and establish common ground, even common goals with that entity, calling for its allegiance and benevolence toward my cause, will I not in turn, at some point, have to prove my allegiance to it? “You rub my back, I‘ll rub yours”, this occurring, perhaps, in a time or situation when and where my deepest convictions disagree with its actions.
For instance, as a Christian, approaching issues such as – War and Human Rights. What if the government/ political system’s ideologies, whom I have mixed in with my own religious convictions, begins to take an aggressive stance to promote its way of life upon others? What if it begins to exert a military offense upon other nations and systems, in quest of securing and solidifying its democratic doctrine internationally? Cunningly, it may begin to draw upon the very pet issues and crystal convictions that we hold commonly, in a propagandistic manner, to secure commitment to its determined course. Endeavoring to romance me into a compromising stance and course of action, by stroking the back of my mixture of beliefs and even using them as a justification for aggressive action, when the true motivation has absolutely nothing to do with those beliefs at all. But, is rather, generated by a lust for power or greed or the fear of losing its idealistic influence internationally. Thus, drawing upon the fears (not faith) which many a time is the real foundation of many of our most tightly held convictions.
The perpetual Gulf crisis, in my opinion, is a perfect example of this principle. I personally, have no doubt that Iraq is harboring both the designs and literal materials which make for biological warfare and nuclear as well. I also believe, that Saddam Hussein’s motivations for his region and other parts of the world, if given ample opportunity are far from admirable. Yet, I also believe that the constant pressure, bordering on harassment (inspections, sanctions etc.,) by the U.N. carries a deeper onus than the thwarting of cataclysmic war on Iraq‘s neighbors. It is a clear denunciation of national sovereignty, when it comes to defense and conquest.
The same scenario, with different and diverse secondary issues is being played out all over the globe. Wherever, a non-conformist, individualistic regime carries out its own ideology in utter defiance of the Will of the International Community. (Whatever that is, the definition seems to be expanding and constantly reinventing itself, ambiguous, therefore, very flexible and open to constant revisions and innovations.) The Global police force (U. N.) is making it its business to ensure that everyone maintains Compliance (another buzzword of the day) with this Universal Standard of Arbitrary Law.
Situational Ethics is the art of modern diplomacy, whatever the situation calls for and whatever politically correct slogans and issues have to pull at the heartstrings of a well-meaning, liberal-hearted, yet politically naive public. Whether it be the balancing of Bosnia, the crushing of racial purging in Kosovo, the stifling of nuclear proliferation in India and Pakistan, the democratizing of the New Congo, the death blow to division in Ireland, the pressuring of England to become an intricate part of the European Union, the belittling and defaming of the United States of America, or the sandwiching of East and West of the Nation of Israel, to give its most strategic land to its openly professing bloodthirsty Arab enemies, there is one driving force and sinister goal beneath the surface and behind it all: Global Domination by a Socialist Elite, comprised of money mongers from diverse nations working behind the mask of modern pluralistic propaganda and regurgitated rhetoric.
The ultimate aim of these Socialist engineers (and they are achieving it) is a leveling across the board, of all national sovereignty and individual ideology. You can hold your own views and practice your own philosophy of life, as long as it doesn’t conflict with the Will of the International Community, absolute compliance to arbitrary ambiguity and uncompromised compromise! Everyone is being neutralized and equalized. The Peace Process reigns by threat of Military Intervention (Buzz). No weapons of mass destruction (Buzz) allowed for those who disagree with International Law (Buzz), whatever this is. You could find yourself being tried by the International Court, another new concept. We will explore this concept of Global balancing more in our next section.
Let us conclude for now our argument concerning the Church’s alignment through a well meaning yet, naive patriotism. Is it wise to subject itself in principle to such an unpredictable entity, which operates not by moral absolutes and laws, but by situational ethics and arbitrary amendment, to a Constitution gone more extinct than our precious wildlife and rain forests, which are held in higher regard than human life, and rights these days? Is not Christianity, by its very nature, the antithesis of this mentality? Are we not a people guided and held accountable to Moral Absolutes and Divine Law, which are in no way given to sudden, flippant change? Is our God not black and white? Does He not define good and evil, right and wrong, truth and error, clearly and definitively, without a back door of what is at the moment politically expedient? Can we with a clear conscience, support and endorse something we can’t even define anymore? Well, food for thought.
I just want to close this section with one final example from recent history, which I believe parallels our current situation in the States — The Evangelical Church of Germany, in the first part of this century, and its loyal and binding relationship to its unpredictable Government. The Evangelical Church (Lutheran) has been a foundational element of the German culture and tradition for the last four hundred years, being the very focal point of the Reformation via Martin Luther. It has stood as the precedent for religious profession and catalyst for social reform in that country.
Standing patriotically, by its government for centuries, it has held in common many ideals with its government and people. However, without realizing it, it began to lose more and more of its clear and strong, moral uncompromising stands, as time wore on and the world modernized. Affected by new, more liberal teachings of the Enlightenment and in its archaic consistent state, becoming irrelevant to the culture it had once helped shape., it began to embrace more of the political/social rhetoric of the day (leaven of Herod and the Herodians) and less of the simple truth of God’s Word. Aligning itself more and more with the State and adhering to a mixture of beliefs, thought to be religious truth, it became a servant of the State and a mere echo of its sacred past.
Thus, by the time Hitler and the Nazis came to power, it was already too entrenched in blind patriotism and too needy of promised peace and prosperity that it not only fell to Nazi infiltration and influence, but also, actually became a major platform for its propagation and the carrying out of its aims. The Church was so easily bewitched, that even the minority of conscience stricken ministers who rallied to oppose Nazi allegiance and maintain Christian Purity, by standing with those who were falling victim to oppression and terror (i.e., Jews), couldn’t convince their brothers to change nor stay committed themselves. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and a few faithful, operating under the banner of the Confessing Church, labored in vain and were even, eventually martyred for their lonely stand for righteousness.
The Confession being, basically, that the Christian Church cannot stand by a government motivated by racism, oppression and the destruction of freedom and human rights and secondly, must even in view of possible suffering and persecution themselves stand on behalf of the oppressed peoples, Christian or not! Quite frankly, the Church was run over and turned into a social propaganda machine for demonic aims. What was the Church’s downfall? Getting its doctrine, values, ideals and selfish aspirations for personal peace and affluence intertwined with that of the State and thus becoming not just a silent partner, but also, a platform for the State’s destructive and sinister objectives.
Could this happen in America?